Sandwell bin workers vote for strike action amid bullying claims

Bin workers in Sandwell have voted to go on strike in a row over bullying and conditions.

Bin workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in Sandwell
Bin workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in Sandwell

Industrial action could start within two weeks unless a resolution is found after members of the GMB union voted overwhelmingly in favour.

It comes amid claims that workers who spoke out about safety issues were threatened and that disabled staff who shielded during the pandemic were sacked.

Concerns have also been raised over pay and hours.

Union bosses say they are hopeful of a resolution to the dispute and that talks were ongoing with Serco, which is contracted by Sandwell Council to run waste services in the borough.

Justine Jones, GMB regional organiser, said 87 per cent of members who had voted in the ballot had backed strike action, while 95 per cent were in favour of other action including overtime bans and work-to-rule.

"This has been going on for a very long time and it has all come to a head," she said. "The ballot was the last straw after getting nowhere for months.

"We are now actually having meaningful discussions and we are not planning for strike action just yet. It is on hold and we have up to six months to take industrial action.

"However, we are not prepared to do deals, and members are determined that unless all aspects of the dispute are settled adequately they will go out on strike."

Serco regional manager, Andrew Smith, said: "We are having progressive meetings with the trade unions and this week we have met again for more positive talks and further actions are taking place.

"We are working hard to support our employees, avoid disruptions to residents and continue to welcome conversations with the GMB union."

A Sandwell Council spokesperson said: “This is a matter for Serco to resolve with their employees, however we will continue to work with our partners at Serco and hope that they can work with their employees and the trade union to resolve these matters quickly without disruption to our residents."

Nicola Richards, Conservative MP for West Bromwich East, said a strike would "punish" council tax payers in Sandwell and accused council chiefs of "failing to engage" with Serco and GMB.

"Our communities deserve so much better," she said. "People rely on these essential services like bin collections, and I fear that we’re about to see a return to the 1970s in the borough."

A previous strike planned after Serco removed two bin rounds was called off in January after the firm agreed to re-instate them.

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