Bin collections are set to resume in Bexley for the first time in six weeks, with a deal ” in principle” struck between workers and their employer Serco.
Uncollected bins have been “piling up” across Bexley since July 12 after around 140 refuse workers walked out over pay and victimisation complaints, causing local outrage at the state of the borough.
Under the threat of strikes continuing until October, Serco and Unite have finally agreed terms after talks mediated by ACAS went on long into the night.
Relieved Bexley Council leader Teresa O’Neill OBE said in a statement they were “pleased” that the workforce should be returning tomorrow (August 25), although they warned it would be “some time” before bin collections returned to normal.
Further industrial action is not yet off the cards though, with union members stating the strikes are just suspended in case Serco go back on their word.
Unite has said its members have voted in favour of a deal in principle, but will be waiting for Serco to carry out its promises before calling a complete end to the “summer of stink.”
The deal includes a one off £750 payment for 19 staff, contract changes that will reduce pay disparities and steps to prevent the weaponisation of the drug and alcohol policy.
Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “We are pleased that a provisional deal has been reached following an improved offer from Serco.
“While the deal is being ratified, which we expect to happen by the end of the week, our members will go back to work and bin collections in Bexley will resume.
“Until this deal is enacted in full, however, strikes are being suspended not cancelled, and our members retain the option to return to the picket line if they need to do so.”
Bexley Council’s statement read: “We are pleased that the industrial action currently being taken by one-fifth of Serco’s workforce in Bexley who are members of the union Unite has been suspended. The workforce should be returning tomorrow.”
Cllr O’Neill said they had encouraged both parties to sit down and reach an agreement throughout the strike, leading to several ACAS-led meetings and now finally a conclusion.
“We would like to thank all our residents for their patience during this difficult time and all the local people and volunteers who have helped others in the community,” the council leader continued.
Although this is a ‘suspension’ of the strike rather than a complete end we feel confident that the final agreement can be reached between Unite and Serco and that the action will end officially on Monday.
“Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the strike means that it will be some time before collections return to normal.”
The council will therefore be continuing to operate weekend recycling sessions in car parks, whilst waste and recycling sites will continue to open later.
Graeme Waugh, Senior Contract Manager said “I am confident that, with the support of ACAS, an amicable resolution to the strike action in Bexley has been found. We are working on the details of the agreement currently and are delighted that residents’ collections can recommence whilst this is being finalised.
“My team’s focus has now shifted to delivering the missed collections catch up following the industrial action, and we are pleased with the commitment from Unite to fully support us during this process.
“I would like to thank residents for their continued patience and support while we strive to return to the normal collection schedule as soon as possible and apologise for the recent disruption and inconvenience they have had to endure.”