Bristol summer bin chaos

Council-owned Bristol Waste workers to strike over low wages

Reading time: 3 min

More than 200 refuse workers employed by Bristol Waste will strike in July, Unite said on Thursday (June 29).

The workers, who collect bins, clean the streets and operate household waste and recycling centres, are angry at a 17 month pay offer of seven per cent or £2,000, whichever is greater for their salary. With the real rate of inflation, RPI, running at 11.3 per cent, this is a significant real terms pay cut.

While many of the workers are paid little more than the minimum wage, Bristol Waste, which is owned by the council, made gross profits of more than £2.3 million for the year ending March 2022.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Bristol Waste has enough money to pay these workers a decent wage rise. They are on poverty wages and do a difficult job in all weathers as committed workers. It’s a disgrace that a company wholly-owned by a Labour council is offering its low paid workers what amounts to a substantial real terms pay cut when it is turning such large profits.

“Unite’s focus is now entirely on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions and Bristol Waste’s workforce will receive all the support they need.”

The workers will strike for seven days from Monday 10 July and then for a further 14 days from Monday 24 July. As well as stopping bin collections, street cleaning services during and after events such as the Bristol Harbour Festival will be severely disrupted.

Unite regional officer Ken Fish added, “The responsibility for this dispute and the disruption it will cause lies entirely at the door of Bristol Waste and the council. The strikes can still be avoided but the company must come back with a pay offer our members can accept.”

Around 150 workers employed by Suez emptying bins on behalf of South Gloucestershire council are also in dispute over pay and are taking all out indefinite strike action. While 200 workers employed by Suez on the outsourced Somerset refuse collection contract have also announced strikes in July.

By Ryan Fletcher