Is a bin strike coming to Central Bedfordshire

GMB London, representing members employed by FCC Environment contracted to provide waste disposal services for the residents of Central Bedfordshire, said in a press release published on 14 October 2021, that it has been “met with contempt” during pay and conditions talks with the employer.

GMB said it submitted a pay claim on behalf of its members in March 2020 for the Real Living Wage for loaders and sweepers on minimum wage.

The union said FFC got back to them in October with an offer of 1.5%, but “disappointingly” backdated it from August, refusing to backdate to April, the normal pay anniversary.

The union claims that this is the “real reason” for FCC’s problems collecting waste and recycling, not a shortage of HGV drivers, the excuse FCC has given to the council and residents.

Richard Owen, GMB London Region Organiser, said:

“Although the HGV drivers have recently benefitted from an uplift in pay, this has only happened because of the current shortage of HGV drivers nationally, in contrast to the many loaders and street staff leaving in droves because they earn the minimum wage. The company use agency staff paid at higher rates – how can that be right?

“The GMB recognition agreement was TUPE’d over from Biffa, but FCC is in denial of this fact, preferring to maintain a stance of non-union recognition.

“This doesn’t help our members and it does not help the residents who pay for a service which currently is very poor by comparison.”

GMB said it calls on FCC Environment to be “realistic about the situation” and offer better pay and conditions to employees in these waste services roles.

If FCC refuses to recognise GMB, the union said it will begin a short period of consultation with its members with a view to conducting a ballot for industrial action.

FCC Environment has released a statement in response to GMB Union’s statement issued on 14 October. It said:

“FCC Environment began rolling out a new harmonised recycling and waste collection service across the whole of Central Bedfordshire in early 2020 to improve efficiency and deliver value for money, whilst also giving the council the opportunity to introduce new recycling services to residents over time.

“Throughout the pandemic, services have proved resilient thanks to the hard work of crews but the acute shortage of drivers currently affecting the whole of the UK is putting services under enormous pressure.

“As such, our focus remains entirely on maintaining services and meeting the needs of residents whilst rewarding and supporting our staff for the hard work they put in.

“The concerns detailed in GMB Union’s press release have not been raised with us, therefore currently we are unaware of any problems and cannot verify their accuracy.

“FCC will be reaching out to the GMB Union to arrange a meeting to discuss the matters mentioned in their press release and to gain an understanding of the issues that they have not previously formally bought to our attention. We would therefore urge the GMB Union to talk to us rather than seeking to conduct a negotiation through the media.

“In the meantime, we would like to reassure residents that we are doing all we can to ensure services continue to run smoothly and to avoid potential strike action.”