New ballot averts Christmas strike by East Herts refuse crews
A bin strike which threatened a rubbish Christmas for East Herts residents has been averted.
On Tuesday (November 28), just 24 hours before up to 70 GMB members working for refuse and street cleaning contractor Urbaser were due to walk out, their employer confirmed agreement had been reached with the union.
The company said a ballot on a revised pay deal, held on Monday, resulted in a majority of members accepting its offer.
The GMB said it had achieved an 11% pay increase. The rise will be backdated to April this year and staff have been promised a 4% increase next year. This means Urbaser will now pay above minimum wage and the GMB has secured increases of up to £3,850 for some workers.
Tim Guile, regional manager at Urbaser Ltd, said: “We are extremely pleased to have reached this agreement, averting the industrial action scheduled for Wednesday (November 29).
“We believe the agreement is a great result for all parties involved. It reflects Urbaser’s dedication to our employees’ wellbeing and our commitment to providing high-quality services to the North and East Hertfordshire communities.”
Urbaser won a seven-year joint contract to provide waste collection and street cleansing services for East Herts and North Herts district councils in May 2018.
Management has negotiated a two-year agreement with GMB to ensure continuity of services for the remaining term.
Mr Guile said he was grateful for the “collaborative efforts” of all parties involved in averting the industrial action.
He said: “We extend our thanks to the GMB Union representatives and our employees for their co-operation and understanding throughout this process.”
The threatened walkout by up to 70 bin lorry drivers, rubbish collectors and road sweepers centred on a dispute over company sick pay and a wage increase – demands Urbaser had said were “wholly unjustified”. While pay has now improved, there has been no agreement on sick pay.
Bishop’s Stortford householders were facing no more black bin collections until January 2 at the earliest.
One Herts Urbaser worker said: “I wasn’t looking forward to Christmas on strike so the deal was welcomed by the majority of us, and despite our workmates not joining the union, our GMB representatives did well to get an 11% increase as far as I’m concerned.”
GMB representative Michael Dooley said: “The pay increase was welcomed by many of our members, but it was disappointing that Urbaser did not include any sick pay as part of the deal.
“I cannot blame Urbaser entirely, their motive is to make profit. The problem we have is that 50% of Urbaser staff are non-union, some of whom were likely to cross the picket line – this left us in a weaker bargaining position.
“The ‘I’m alright Jack’ [attitude] and loyalty to rich shareholders rather than to workmates and neighbours by half the Urbaser workers left us in a difficult position. However, we intend to press Urbaser for a company sick pay scheme in April next year.”