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Bexley refuse workers protest, January 2020. Photo: Unite the Union

Bexley refuse workers protest, January 2020. Photo: Unite the Union

Refuse workers in the London Borough of Bexley have won their dispute with Bexley council and Serco, reports Jamal Elaheebocus

Over 150 refuse workers, represented by Unite, were planning to go on strike for five days starting on Thursday, after their employers Serco refused to pay workers the London living wage of £10.75 an hour, offering just £10.15. Workers also accused Serco of not paying sick pay to workers for absences relating to coronavirus during lockdown. They had previously walked out for a day and a half in March, demanding that they were given sick pay during the pandemic, which they won but some workers were still not given the pay during the pandemic. At that stage, some employees were on as little as £8.90 per hour and the use of zero-hour contracts was widespread.

The planned strike action was also due to Serco failing to deal with incidents of bullying at the Crayford depot.

The deal means that there will be a change in local management, full sick pay for employees, the reinstatement of sacked members, improvement on health and safety, payment for bank holiday backpay and crucially a substantial pay rise of between 90p and £1.50 per hour.

The victory is a significant one for workers against Serco, who “don’t care about the employees at all” according to one worker. Workers say they will be balloting again to fight for a London living wage for all. There is likely to be more of this action; refuse workers in Merton also look like they will be planning strike action in the coming weeks, demanding they are paid the London living wage and to end the use of zero-hours contracts.

Already we have seen several struggles, most notably that of the Tower Hamlets council workers, and there will be many more to come, as the economic crisis deepens and the jobs slaughter continues.

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