Refuse workers employed by Veolia on the outsourced Croydon council contract are to begin balloting for strike action in a dispute over low pay.
Unite, the UK’s leading union, is balloting around 100 refuse workers employed by Veolia as drivers, loaders and sweepers.
The workers’ wages are already around £7,000 per year below comparative pay rates for other refuse workers in London. Many of the HGV drivers are on just £12.51 per hour while the lowest paid loaders and sweepers are on £10.75 per hour.
Despite nine months of negotiations, Veolia has only been prepared to offer an increase of 2.5 per cent for drivers and two per cent for sweepers and loaders for 2021. The company has already informed Unite that it will not offer more than 2.5 per cent for 2022. With the real inflation rate currently running at nine per cent (RPI) this amounts to a large real terms pay cut for the workforce.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “It’s just not acceptable that key workers in Croydon are facing a large real terms pay cut at a time of spiralling living costs, especially as their employer, Veolia, can easily afford to pay fairly. Veolia is exceptionally wealthy – it only recently found billions to buy another company. This is just boardroom greed putting profits before pay once again.
“Unite will be giving our members at Veolia the union’s total support until the company makes an acceptable offer to our members and this dispute is resolved.”
The ballot opens on Tuesday 3 May and closes on Monday 23 May. If the workers vote for industrial action then strikes could begin in early June.
Veolia, which is based in France, is an extremely wealthy multinational company. It has recently announced a merger with fellow waste management company Suez at a cost of 13 billion euros which is subject to a competition inquiry in the UK.
Unite regional officer Clare Keogh said: “Our members take great pride in keeping Croydon clean and tidy but they simply can’t tolerate low rates of pay any longer.
“Despite months of negotiations Veolia has refused to make a fair pay offer. Unite’s members have been left with no option but to ballot for strike action. Strike action could still be avoided but Veolia needs to return to the negotiating table with an offer that meets our members’ expectations.”