Workington bin chaos to worsen

Council-owned Allerdale Waste Services will not be able to bring in agency staff to break strikes after High Court ban

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Council-owned Allerdale Waste Services will not be able to bring in agency staff to cover striking bin workers after August 10.

The impact from all-out strikes by workers employed by Allerdale Waste Services, which is 100 per cent owned by Cumberland council, is set to worsen after a High Court ruling banning agency staff.

Following the government’s decision to reverse the ban on employers hiring agency staff during strike action in July 2022, a group of trade unions, including Unite, challenged the decision through a judicial review coordinated by the TUC.

The High Court last week upheld the unions’ judicial review. The 2022 amendment to the regulations has now been quashed due to the government’s complete failure to consult prior to implementing their proposals, as required by legislation.

Employers will be barred from recruiting agency staff to undermine legal strike action from Wednesday 10 August.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This is a total vindication for unions and workers. The government’s decision to allow employers to recruit agency staff to undermine legal strike action was a cynical move to back their friends in business and weaken workers’ legal rights to withdraw their labour.

“It was entirely counterproductive as, rather than weaken industrial action, it has hardened attitudes and unnecessarily extended strikes,” she added. “The dispute with Allerdale Waste Services and Cumberland council is a perfect example of that. The only way this dispute will be resolved is with an acceptable offer from the company.”

The workers have been on all-out strike since May 16 in a dispute over pay.

The workers’ pay rates are among the lowest in the entire country. The loaders are paid just £10.90 an hour, while the drivers, who are required to hold an HGV licence, are only paid £11.89 an hour.

Tensions in the dispute have further increased as the agency staff brought in to undermine the strike are earning £14 an hour, well in excess of the rates for the permanent staff.

Fresh talks between Unite and Cumberland council yesterday collapsed.

Unite regional officer Ryan Armstrong said, “It is disgraceful enough that a Labour council has taken advantage of Conservative-legislation that has now been struck down by the High Court to try and break a strike. But to make matters worse the council is deliberately escalating the dispute and prolonging the disruption to its constituents by negotiating in bad faith.

“Unite attended talks yesterday after being informed that the council would be putting forward an improved pay offer,” he added. “This turned out to be completely false – no new offer was put forward that would have increased our members’ wages. The council needs to understand that our members’ resolve is as solid as a rock. Without a proper offer by 10 August the impact of the strikes will become much worse and the council will have to answer to the public for that.”

By Ryan Fletcher