About 130 loaders, drivers and sweepers employed by Newham council in the east London are on strike from Saturday to September 3 in a row over wages and conditions. The local authority said it tried to reach an agreement with Unite after union bosses demanded a 10% pay rise.
Unite said 99% of union members voted for the action.
Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said the council had made the employees an offer of £2,229, which equates to a 7.8-9.9% raise.
Unite said the council had offered £850 a year for public holidays at a time when workers were demanding £2,300 to address pay disparities and the cost of living crisis.
Waste and recycling are unlikely to be collected during the strike if the Labour-led council does not have enough staff to run the service.
Mayor Fiaz continued, “If the week-long strike continues, it will disrupt trash and recycling pickups for several weeks as the service area catches up with the backlog of pickups in the borough.
“I know senior management is doing everything they can to resolve the dispute with the union and as soon as we have more information I will provide an update including the contingency plans we will be putting in place.”
She said: ‘Sadly the people who will suffer the most are our hardworking Newham residents who are earning far less than what has been offered to our refuse workers.
Cllr Nate Higgins, Green Party councilor for the Olympic Park area of Stratford in Newham, said: “I am frustrated that council is choosing to blame desperate workers and their union for the upcoming strike. A Labor administration should know that industrial action is never taken lightly and it will be costly for workers who are already facing significant pressures.
“Statements in the press twist the council’s offer and take the understandable anger residents feel and wrongly direct it at workers. It’s not fair and it won’t help. Unions and progressive councils must be on the same side for central government to reverse austerity and provide fair pay and conditions to every worker.Everyone understands that local government is coming under increasing pressure from central government budget cuts.
“All Newham residents are facing the same cost of living crisis as our frontline municipal workers. No one wants a strike and the very difficult consequences it will bring, but now more than ever people understand if workers are not fighting for fair pay and conditions, many will not survive this crisis.
“Both sides must now show the courage to come back to the negotiating table and show the political will to find a solution that supports both workers and residents.”
Worried Newham resident Iqbal Hussain, Neighborhood Watch Coordinator, said: “The bin strike is worrying. Residents are worried about overflowing garbage cans. Is [it] creating an eyesore is also a serious health hazard, attracting rats and other vermin.
“Although temporary waste disposal sites will be created, many will not be able to make the trip, in particular our elders without vehicle access.
Meanwhile, a strike by Scottish bin workers over wages has spread to more cities, with rubbish from unemptied bins overflowing onto Edinburgh’s main streets.
Similar strikes have started in more than a dozen other areas, including Aberdeen and Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow.
Unite said this week that a local government body had made it clear that no further funds would be allocated for an improved pay deal following a rejected 5% bid.
The strikes coincided with Edinburgh’s annual Fringe festival which runs for most of August and draws millions to Scotland’s capital.