Threat of bin strike over pay

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Households in Wealden could suffer some disruption to collection of their waste and recycling from mid-April.

The trade union GMB have said more than 40 members, who work at Biffa’s depots in Hailsham and Uckfield, are voting on whether to walk out over pay. 

The union have said workers are demanding above inflation pay rises – loaders want to be paid £12.50 per hour and HGV drivers £17.50 per hour. 

Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary, said:

Work dissatisfaction and pay poverty, similar to that which recently left Biffa facing strike action from GMB members in Hastings, has caught up with them now in both the Hailsham and Uckfield depots.

The ballot and any strike action should be a wakeup call for Biffa.

Their staff – our members – want pay rises which are not just above inflation but good enough to put cash back in their pockets, so they don’t have to choose between heating and eating.

Biffa bosses still have time to meet with us to get a deal thrashed out and avoid protracted disruption to Wealdon residents’ refuse and recycling collections.

Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary

Industrial action has been been taken in other local authority areas in Sussex in the past year.

Wealden District Council has a joint agreement with Biffa for waste and recycling collections in Hastings, Rother and Wealden. Most of the refuge staff in the Wealden branch are thought to be members of a different trade union Unison.

Cllr Roy Galley, whose portfolio includes waste management, has said in a report to the Wealden District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which meets on Monday (21st March):

Biffa has overcome the threat of strike action at the St. Leonards depot [Hastings]. While this is good news for the Joint Waste Partnership, Wealden remain concerned about the potential impact on the staff at our depots at Bellbrook [Uckfield] and Amberstone [Hailsham] who are not part of this action. We are actively managing this risk.

We have contacted Biffa and asked them to send some communication to Bellbrook and Amberstone staff to explain what the settlement at St Leonards means for them and what Biffa are working on in terms of equalising pay rates across all three depots. The hope is this will keep the staff at the Wealden depots on-board and avoid misleading/damaging rumours from creating dissatisfaction among the staff and an incentive for them to transfer from Unison to the GMB, which could potentially place us in the position for industrial action next.

Cllr Roy Galley, Portfolio Holder for Climate Change, Economic Development, Waste Management and HR

At the last meeting of the Joint Waste and Recycling Committee in January, Biffa’s Senior Business Manager Trevor Elliot was asked about the likelihood of industrial action. He told members that staff are paid above the minimum wage and that Biffa hoped to become a living wage employer by 2023. Each Council in the partnership was being recommended to allow 5% for the anticipated inflationary increase to the contract price from April. The next meeting of the Committee is on 1st April.

Averil Price, who is Director of Community & Customer Services at Wealden District Council and is the Lead Director for the waste partnership, said:

Residents should continue presenting their bins as normal. Biffa is in active and ongoing negotiations with union representatives and remain committed to reaching a solution as quickly as possible.

Avril Price, Lead Director waste partnership

The ballot closes on Friday 25th March. The GMB have said strike action could begin as early as mid-April, if Biffa management continues to refuse engagement and negotiations with the union.  

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