Agency workers pay victory

Unite secures lockdown pay victory for agency refuse workers in Sandwell

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Employment agency workers contracted to provide refuse collection services in Sandwell, West Midlands, are being paid 100 per cent of their wages during lockdown, after Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, intervened to prevent them being left penniless during the pandemic.

Around 40 refuse workers contracted from the Templink employment agency to work on a street cleaning and bin collection contract run by Serco on behalf of Sandwell council were facing being left without wages after the lockdown began in March. 

After Unite interceded on their behalf with Sandwell council it was agreed the workers would receive all of their wages for the duration of the lockdown even if the council could not offer suitable alternative work.

The majority of assignments were for full time work, however because the workers are employed on a ‘day-to-day’ basis they were told by Templink that they would not be furloughed. 

The workers have now received their first backdated payment, covering the period from the end of March until mid-May. 

Unite regional officer Emma Randle said, “Agency work is at the sharp end of the jobs market, with workers denied even the most basic rights and benefits. This has been especially true during the pandemic, with many agencies deciding to save money by abandoning staff rather than registering them under the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

“Unite was determined that these workers would be treated like human beings and not disposable assets, and we commend Sandwell council for heeding our call not to leave them to the iniquities of the insecure labour market. This is a real result for Sandwell’s Templink Serco staff and a clear indication of how insecure workers can benefit from being part of a union.”

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