Sheffield bin workers fight for "going rate"

Submitted by AWL on 16 November, 2021 - 6:10 Author: Michael Elms
Sheffield bin workers

Sheffield bin workers employed by Veolia at the Lumley Street depot struck on Monday 8 November over pay. The company had offered them a below-inflation pay award of 3%, plus a £250 bonus offered on condition that they accepted the offer.

At a 6:30am picket attended by 100 to 200 workers, the workforce voted by show of hands to demand a 6% pay increase plus the £250 bonus back. On 8 November, the action was for one morning: after a march through town and a rally at the town hall, the Lumley Street workers returned to work at 10:30am. But the picket meeting voted that from 22 November (after the 14 days’ notice required by Tory law), they would strike for a full week.

Alongside activists from Workers’ Liberty, the Veolia workers were joined on the picket line by supporters from the Labour Party including two councillors. Local Labour left-wingers are putting resolutions to CLPs and the Local Campaign Forum to get the ruling Labour Group in Sheffield City Council to put more pressure on Veolia. The picket line was also visited by two representatives of the Sheffield food couriers’ union, IWGB. These food couriers explained their own impending pay dispute to the bin workers and expressed their members’ solidarity.

A driver told Solidarity, “Drivers get £12.66 an hour while loaders get £11. We have just seen them advertising jobs for an agency for temporary workers at £15 an hour. I don’t know whether that is to cover this strike or just for extra clear-up. Whatever they are planning, they have set the going rate at £15...

“The vote for a week of action was unanimous, so there can be no complaints now, we just have to bite the bullet. Times are hard for everyone at the minute. We have all worked through the pandemic while others got furloughed. 12 months ago these lads were heroes. Now, we are greedy bin men wanting a pay rise.

“We are just trying to keep pace with inflation, for our families. You pay your council tax, you want your bins emptied: we want to be appreciated for it. There are £15, £16 an hour jobs going on up and down the country. This is a trained job. Loaders are on £11 an hour. I know bar and shop work pays more than that. I know these loaders are out in all weathers, coughs, colds: keeping the service going.”

Pay wasn’t the only issue. A rep told Solidarity: “They have changed the hours of how we get overtime. It used to be from 2:00pm, now it’s 2:30pm. They have changed different terms and conditions, like the tipping bonus... A couple of lads have been brought into the office and the manager has looked at their time sheet and refused to pay...

“They wanted to take certain T&Cs off us as part of the pay award, saying that above a certain percentage they would look at removing certain T&Cs. Beighton [depot], which is also run by Veolia, they received a certain pay award plus a cash bonus. But they wouldn’t match that here. As far as we were concerned, that is where it all started, for us.

“How did we organise this? Obviously we kept the lads informed throughout the process. So initially when we went in and looked at the pay deal, we brought that straight back to the lads, they balloted on that and said no. We were called back into another meeting with an improved offer, but still derisory. We brought that back to a show of hands; they said no. We kept everyone informed and that goes a long way — rather than little pockets of people finding out and that spreading out. We would always call a meeting in the morning, and ask where people wanted to be with it.”

At the time of going to press, GMB members at the Lumley Street depot were still consulting over a new pay offer from Veolia.

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