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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Redbridge bin men to strike during election week over ‘appalling’ working conditions

Bin men in Redbridge are set to strike over election week in protest of their working conditions.

Employees of Redbridge Civic Services, launched by the borough council in 2019, will walk out between Monday, 1 July and Sunday, 7 July.

Unite, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, says workers have been consistently starting and finishing their shifts late, due to vehicles breaking down, while often working feeling ‘pressured’ to work overtime on weekends.

Such workloads have led to higher staff sickness rates, the union says, which is compounded by workers only being eligible for ten days’ paid leave.

Its general secretary, Sharon Graham, said the council had acted “disgracefully” and was treating “some of its most vital workers appallingly”.

She added: “That the council leader can’t do the decent thing for his workers speaks volumes and Unite won’t stand for it.”

The week-long strike will coincide with the 4 July general election, in which council leader and Labour candidate Jas Athwal will vie for the Ilford South seat. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is standing for Labour in Ilford North.

Redbridge Civic Services (RCS), which is wholly owned by Redbridge Council, is currently in the early stages of negotiation to prevent the strike going ahead.

A spokesperson for the council said it was confident the “extensive package of support” offered to workers provided “fair remuneration” and represented a “significant improvement” in conditions. He added that such an offer had followed “generous salary increases” in 2022 and 2023.

He said: “The council is helping to facilitate negotiations in the hope that both parties can reach an agreement to prevent strike action and ensure the local people we all serve are not adversely impacted.”

Nick West, Unite’s regional officer, said officials and politicians “needed to recognise the anger of our members” and could “look forward to seeing rubbish piled up outside polling stations” if action wasn’t taken.

He added: “Our members collect the borough’s waste in all weathers. They are regularly understaffed and under-resourced making their work far more difficult than it needs to be. They aren’t going to stand for this any longer.”

Redbridge had initially hoped RCS would be able to profit from waste and recycling collections, but nearly scrapped it in 2022 over mounting debts.

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