Bin workers at Sandwell Council in the Black Country are back on strike! After a successful
strike two years ago and a further ballot for action last summer, multinational company Serco
are once again trying to get away with imposing a below-inflation pay increase of 7% on a
workforce that already receive substantially less in pay and pensions than bin workers
directly employed by councils elsewhere in the region.
It's not lost on the workers there that Serco has made £542m profits over the last three
years, earned among other things from mismanaging the Covid test and trace scheme and
outsourced services for councils, prisons, the NHS and military. With this money burning a
hole in the company’s back pocket, Serco senior management has increased dividends to
shareholders, bought back £90m of its own stock and given chief executive Rupert Soames
a yearly pay packet worth up to £4.2m.
Meanwhile chronically-underpaid workers on the refuse contract in Sandwell are driving
around in barely-roadworthy bin lorries. To add insult to injury, workers report that the
company is threatening to introduce bank holiday working and take away task-and-finish
working practices, lengthening the working day.
Despite management’s attempts to break the strike with agency staff on several pounds
more per hour than the regular workforce, GMB members have stayed solid in their support
for the strike, with a mass turnout on the pickets each day. This was despite the area
manager of Serco attempting to intimidate the picket line by driving directly at it. He then got
treated to a loud chorus of Driving In My Car and Greased Lighting outside his office
A loud and lively lobby was also conducted of last Tuesday's council meeting. Sandwell’s
Labour councillors, who voted to hand over local services to cowboy companies like Serco
have washed their hands of the dispute.
Bin workers have made plans to strike indefinitely until their demand of 15% and no
worsening of working conditions is achieved. As one picket summed it up "the cost of living
crisis only exists for working people – and we’ve had enough!"
We meet every Tuesday starting at 7:00pm in:
The Lych Gate Tavern
44 Queen Square,