Bin collections and street cleaning services in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets could stop ‘imminently’ in a dispute over unsettled holiday pay arrears, Unite said today (4 February).
Veolia, which holds the refuse, recycling and street cleaning contract for Tower Hamlets, has not settled a collective holiday pay claim despite reaching an agreement with Unite and other trade unions on the calculation of holiday pay in August 2018.
Workers are owed up to £9,000 in holiday arrears from Veolia, which generated revenues of nearly £1 billion from in its UK waste management division during the first half of 2019.
Rather than voluntarily paying all its staff the money they are owed, Veolia has forced individual workers to use the legal system to claim back the arrears, in what Unite said was an attempt to use ‘the prospect of complex and time-consuming litigation to put our members off claiming what is rightfully theirs’.
Tower Hamlets’ residents are now facing the prospect of ‘uncollected rubbish and litter strewn streets’ because of Veolia’s refusal to cough up the back pay it owes, the union said.
Around 250 Unite members who are Veolia refuse workers and street cleaners have been balloted for strike action today, with voting to close on 21 February.
Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Tower Hamlets’ council and residents will be furious at the prospect of having to put up with uncollected rubbish and litter strewn streets because Veolia won’t hand over the holiday pay it owes staff.
“It says a lot about Veolia’s leadership that they have done everything possible to wriggle out of paying the holiday pay arrears. This includes using the prospect of complex and time-consuming litigation to put our members off claiming what is rightfully theirs.
“Strike action will be held imminently if this dispute, which is entirely down to the actions of Veolia, continues on its current trajectory. Unite urges Veolia to pay what it owes before that stage is reached.”