Bin workers vote to strike

HUNDREDS of Bristol bin and recycling workers have voted to go on strike over pay – and more could follow.

More than 200 members of union Unite, who collect bins, clean streets and operate household waste and recycling centres for Bristol Waste, voted “overwhelmingly” for strike action in a ballot held over May and June.

Another 90 members of Unison working at the council-owned company are also voting on industrial action.

Unite says workers are angry at being offered a 7% or £2,000 a year increase, whichever is greater, over 17 months.

The union says the retail price index is running at 11.4%, so the offer represents a “significant real terms pay cut”. 

It says many workers are paid little more than the minimum wage, while Bristol Waste reported gross profits of more than £2.3 million last year. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Bristol Waste can well afford to pay these workers a decent rise.

“It is completely unacceptable that a Labour council is leaving its workers to struggle with rocketing living costs when the business it is employing them through is making such large profits. 

“Bristol council and Bristol Waste need to come back with a better offer, and soon, because Unite will be backing our members all the way.” 

Unite regional officer Ken Fish said members had “voted overwhelmingly for industrial action”, dates for which had yet to be announced as the Voice went to print.

Unison said the Bristol Waste offer was “considerably below” its claim for a 10% rise and had been rejected by 95% of members in a consultation.

Its ballot on industrial action is due to close on July 18.

Unison South West regional organiser John Drake said: “It’s disappointing that it’s come to a strike ballot to persuade the employer to make a realistic offer.

“The cost-of-living crisis has not dissipated. Inflation is getting no better, food prices are soaring and energy bills remain high.

“The need for fair pay becomes ever more pressing.

“Striking is always a last resort, but workers deserve to be paid wages that reflect their essential roles and they’re determined to achieve that.”

A Bristol Waste spokesperson said: “We deeply value the hard work of our crews and the services they provide for the city, and always seek to reflect that in the competitive salaries we offer.

“Given the wider economic challenges that all businesses are facing, and following negotiations with the trade unions, in January we put forward an offer of either a minimum 7% pay rise or £2,000 per year, whichever is higher, to April 2024. Unfortunately, this offer was rejected.

“While contingency planning is underway to minimise disruption to residents, we remain keen to avoid industrial action and continue to seek an outcome that all parties can agree on.”