No extra cost or discount as bin strike ends

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council did not incur any extra costs from the recent strike by bin workers – but is not paying contractor Suez any less for the reduced service.

Around 150 members of union Unite
went on strike for more than a month,
from June 26 until July 31, in a dispute over pay.

During the strike, kerbside recycling and green bin collections were suspended as the council and its contractor prioritised black bin collections, keeping recycling centres open and operating temporary ‘deposit points’ for people to take food waste and recycling.

A spokesperson for the council said any extra “direct and indirect costs” incurred because of the strike were being carried by Suez, including the increase in pay negotiated to end the strike.

However the amount the council pays Suez under its contract to collect, recycle and dispose of waste is not being adjusted to account for the fact that a full kerbside collection service was not being provided for the duration of the strike.

The spokesperson said: “The contract between the council and Suez, as a third-party provider, insulates the council from the cost of any pay award but there are no mechanisms within the arrangement to seek recompense for the strike action.”

The council said there had not been an increase in reports of fly-tipping in the district over most of the period of strike action, including an earlier one-week walk-out from June 12 to 16, although there was “a slight increase towards the end of July”.

Unite members voted to strike after rejecting an 8% pay offer from Suez, which the union said represented a “significant real terms pay cut” as it was well below inflation. The union called for a 15% rise.

A proposed 9% rise was also rejected before Suez came back with an offer of 10.1%, which was accepted at the beginning of August. The strike was suspended from July 31 for the workers’ vote.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Suez workers in South Gloucestershire stood firm in their union and secured a significantly improved offer.

“This is a well-deserved result for them and more evidence that Unite’s focus on enhancing jobs, pay and conditions is winning for our members.” 

Unite members at Bristol Waste and Suez in Somerset also won bigger rises following disputes.

A Suez spokesperson said: “We are pleased that we have been able to agree a solution with the union and that further industrial action has been cancelled.

“We are extremely grateful to our employees for their important work and would like to thank the residents of South Gloucestershire for their patience during this time.”

The contractor said it was “conscious that residents had high volumes from the suspension of the service” and said it used extra resources to catch up on the backlog and resume normal services as quickly as possible.

Bulky waste collections restarted on August 14.

Asked by the Voice if penalty clauses for contractors unable to deliver a service would be inserted into the new waste contract due to be introduced in 2025, the council said it was “working to ensure a robust approach to contract arrangements”.