Bexley councillors have been urged to jettison the controversial Serco refuse contract, as about 140 refuse workers gear up for a strike ballot over health and safety Covid-19 concerns.
Unite said that the council’s overview and scrutiny committee, due to discuss a critical report on Serco’s refuse collection performance on Thursday (8 October), should ditch a proposal to extend the outsourcer’s contract until 2025.
Unite said its refuse collection members will start receiving ballot papers on October 14 for strike action on a number of issues, including health and safety concerns and the failure to upgrade a number of workers to agreed pay rates. The ballot closes on Friday November 4.
Unite said that the strike ballot was the latest chapter in what was ‘a dismal industrial relations regime’, including a continuing culture of managerial bullying, at the Thames Road depot, Crayford that predated the March lockdown.
“Bexley councillors will discuss a highly critical report on missed collections on Thursday and we hope that this will be another nail in the coffin of Serco’s aspirations to continue with the contract until 2025,” commented Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon.
‘Blame its failings on members’
“Serco has tried to blame its failings on our members, but the reality is that the poor service is down to bad management, cost cutting, low morale and low pay which means the company can’t attract drivers to work on the contract.
“The strike ballot by our members is the latest chapter in the dismal industrial relation regime presided over by Serco bosses during the course of its contract.
“We are very concerned about the lack of proper assessment of Covid-19 measures. For example, three employees being on a lorry has been raised to four without consultation with the union.
“When Unite raises health and safety concerns, Serco threatens to discipline workers for not following instructions, rather than taking any responsibility themselves.
“Bexley council needs to recognise that the Serco contract has come to the end of the road and should not be extended until 2025. It should be taken back in-house as it is not the best use of council taxpayers’ money.
“Increasingly, the public is recognising that flawed reliance on the private sector, especially during the pandemic, is a huge mistake – and that public health, which includes refuse collection, should not be handed over to profit-hungry outsourcing giants,” she concluded.
By Shaun Noble