Unite says public sector workers can smash Osborne’s 1% pay cap

UNITE-the-union-LogoBromley refuse workers have doubled their money after threatening to strike over pay.

Some 100 Unite members threatened to strike for three days after private contractor Veolia offered them a 1% pay rise. Following talks at ACAS, the employer made an improved offer of 2%, which was accepted.

The union says the stance of the refuse collectors is a wake-up call for other companies used by local authorities in England that they don’t have to adhere to chancellor George Osborne’s notional 1% annual pay cap for public sector workers.

Unite national officer for local government Fiona Farmer said: “It is ‘a smell the coffee’ moment for those outsourcing companies which view local government contracts as a massive money-spinner at the expense of those that actually do the work on behalf of the local communities.

“This is a great victory and a true example of solidarity by our Bromley members – and shows that these companies don’t have to slavishly kow-tow to the pay diktats of George Osborne.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab said: “The threat of strike action brought the company to the Acas negotiating table and the result is a one year two per cent pay offer on all hourly rates backdated to April 2015. We also gained a significant increase in sick pay.

“It was the very real threat of strike action that led to the improved offer. The campaign at Veolia benefited from the Bromley council strike campaign – the proof was the visit to the depot by leading Bromley councillors worried about the anger of residents over uncollected stinking rubbish.”

Veolia was awarded the contract by Bromley council – and Unite has said that this dispute was another example of the flawed nature of the controversial authority’s mass privatisation programme which relies on cutting services and slashing wages.

The Conservative-dominated council is fully committed to becoming a commissioning council and reducing the number of council employees from 4,000 to 300 – despite having £130 million in reserves.

The dispute comes against the backdrop of a Fair Deal For Local Government campaign by Unite’s London and Eastern region which has almost 300,000 members. The campaign is aimed against privatisation and austerity in local government.

The campaign is a set of proposals that Unite is putting to councils in the region. It is a procurement strategy to ensure that quality services are maintained and that there is no ‘race to the bottom’ for pay and conditions post any transfer.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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