Unite slams South Gloucestershire council's 'pretend intervention'

Council needs to stop back covering exercises and force Suez to negotiate in bin dispute

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Unite has slammed South Gloucestershire council’s open letter to both the union and Suez as a ‘pretend intervention to cover its back’.

The letter, regarding all out pay strikes by 150 Suez workers, demands to know “what actions have been taken to date to settle the industrial action and to set out how you will resolve the dispute between yourselves”.

In response to the letter, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “South Gloucestershire council’s contract with Suez is worth over £18m a year. It holds the purse strings to a very lucrative operation and could very easily tell the company to re-join negotiations. This is something Suez has so far refused to do, despite numerous requests to the company from Unite.

“From the beginning of this dispute, Unite has repeatedly asked the council to use its influence to force Suez back into talks to find a resolution. It has steadfastly ignored this advice and is directly responsible for the disruption now being caused to its constituents. The open letter is a pretend intervention to cover the council’s back from a rightly angry public. It needs to roll its sleeves up and tell Suez to get back round the table.”

According to its latest UK financial returns, Suez brought in UK profits of £80.8 million in 2021. Meanwhile,Suez’s South Gloucestershire bin loaders earn just £11.53 per hour.

The workers began strike action in June after rejecting an eight per cent pay offer and strikes are scheduled to last every day until September. With the real rate of inflation, RPI, at 11.3 per cent, this is a significant real terms pay cut.

Unite regional officer Ken Fish added, “Since the strike action began, Suez has absolutely refused to enter into negotiations with Unite. Instead, the company has taken its lead from the council, which so far has done its best to bury its head in the sand.

“That is not good enough for South Gloucestershire’s residents nor for our members, who are wondering why a LibDem/Labour council is happy for Suez to bring in agency workers to break the strike. The council needs to get a grip because Suez’s attempts to union bust are in fact just prolonging.”

By Ryan Fletcher