Refuse workers could strike in Sandwell during Commonwealth Games

Sandwell refuse collectors are voting over whether to take strike action during the Commonwealth Games.

Uncollected rubbish bins in Sandwell during industrial action
Uncollected rubbish bins in Sandwell during industrial action

Spectators from across the world visiting the brand new £73 million aquatics centre in Smethwick could be greeted by piles of stinking rubbish as a ballot began for binmen over taking industrial action.

Last year the refuse collectors went on strike several times, with 74,069 households missing collections on just one day of industrial action in Sandwell.

The GMB, Unite and Unison have all balloted their members about whether they wanted a vote over industrial action, with workers overwhelmingly backing the motion.

GMB workers striking in Sandwell

Sandwell Unison branch secretary Tony Barnsley said: "Regarding possible strike action during the Commonwealth Games, on June 24 Unison's formal industrial action ballot at Serco in Sandwell begins.

"This follows a 96 per cent vote for a formal industrial action ballot on a 82 per cent turnout, after Unison members rejected the eight per cent pay offer from Serco.

"RPI rate of inflation in May was 11.7 per cent and forecast to rise to 15 per cent. Therefore, eight per cent still represents a pay cut in real terms.

"The offer is also nowhere near the claim submitted by Unison, which was 20 per cent on all pay points, plus equal annual leave and sick pay for all to end the two-tier workforce created by Serco."

The spokesman warned: "Our sister trade unions are also balloting their members, which could see strike action take place during the Commonwealth Games. To avoid this Unison urges Serco to make a substantially better offer than the one to date."

Katy Bassett, regional director for Serco environmental services said: “We are continuing to work with all three unions to secure a meaningful resolution to the ongoing pay discussions.”

The Commonwealth Games start on Thursday, July 28. and finish on Monday, August 8. The Aquatics Centre, in Londonderry, Smethwick, is the only purpose-built venue for the games and will see 66 medal events cheered on by 5,000 spectators.

In December last year a long-running dispute between Serco and its workers in Sandwell saw unions accept a four per cent pay rise which equated to a £1,000 rise for drivers and a promise that agency workers would be made permanent.

Sandwell Council has been approached for comment.

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