Residents in Tower Hamlets warned of overflowing bins as refuse collectors prepare to strike over holiday pay

Tower Hamlets residents are facing the prospect of uncollected rubbish due to workers not being paid their due holiday pay
Image by: Dominic Alves

Tower Hamlets residents are facing the prospect of uncollected rubbish in March due to workers not being paid their due holiday pay, according to their union, Unite.

The dispute is over unsettled holiday pay arrears between workers and Veolia, the company that holds the refuse, recycling and street cleaning contract within Tower Hamlets. This could mean that all bin collection services will be affected within the borough from 6 to 15 March.

Around 250 members of Unite The Union, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, were balloted for strike action last week. Unite said: “Unite members voted overwhelmingly (96.5 percent) in favour of strike action in a ballot with a 70 percent turnout”.

“Seven days of strike action beginning on 9 March at 15:00 and ending on 16 March have now been set.”

The union says that Veolia has failed to settle a collective holiday pay claim. After having reached an agreement with Unite The Union on the total sum of holiday pay, workers were due in August 2018. A union spokesperson said: “Workers are owed over £9,000 in holiday pay”.

Hydon added: “Veolia has caused these strikes by attempting to weasel out of paying the substantial holidays arrears it owes staff”

“The company has now got to answer to Tower Hamlets residents who will be understandably angry at having to put up with overflowing bins and piles of rubbish”

She said that Veolia still has time to resolve this dispute before rubbish collections grind to a halt by “agreeing to provide the collective financial settlement” that should have been offered to begin with.

A Veolia spokesperson said: “Following local discussions, we are disappointed to have been notified by Unite that they intend to proceed with industrial action in Tower Hamlets.

“We have a long-standing agreement in place with Unite which includes a dispute resolution procedure. We are in ongoing dialogue with Unite to see if this matter can be resolved and we ask that Unite works with Veolia as part of the dispute resolution procedure which involves working with ACAS, prior to any industrial action taking place.”  

A spokesperson for Tower Hamlets council said: “The council has been informed by Veolia that a number of its waste collection staff are being balloted over possible industrial action.

“This relates to a dispute about holiday pay between Veolia and its workforce and is entirely unrelated to our plans to bring out our waste and recycling services in-house later this year.

“We continue to urge both sides to come together to try and resolve this situation. Residents can be assured that we are in regular contact with Veolia to understand the possible impact of any industrial action and to coordinate the planning to ensure we are able to combine to deliver a waste collection service”.

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