Bexley Council remains “optimistic” that a potential mass strike of refuse workers in the borough can be resolved before the action takes place.

Unite, the union representing Bexley-contracted workers of public services outsourcing giant Serco, announced this week that more than 150 Bexley workers would take strike action later this month, in the latest action of a continuing bitter pay dispute.

A strike of that size for five days could quickly see a backlog of waste collections swell up across the borough.

A Bexley Council spokesperson said they were aware of the statement, but remained positive the issue could be resolved.

“We are aware of the recommendation by Unite that Serco staff in Bexley take part in industrial action. We are liaising with Serco’s senior management and we are optimistic that the situation can be resolved,” a spokesperson for Bexley Council said, adding the authority would keep residents informed through local media, their website and social media.

Council leader Teresa O’Neill doubled down on her criticism of the union for advising the strikes, a week after she called strike action undertaken in the borough in March “absolutely appalling”, due to its proximity to the coronavirus pandemic.

In an updated statement on Wednesday, she said: “It’s a disgrace that Unite are considering taking action in the middle of a public health pandemic.

“I hope that the ongoing discussions will help all parties to quickly settle their issues.”

Cllr O’Neill said last week she was “absolutely appalled the union decided to carry on with a strike in the first week of a public health pandemic” in March.

“That was absolutely appalling, that strike then put Serco operatives behind the collections…I really don’t think it’s the time now to be attacking them, but conversations about our services and what will happen going forward will involve scrutiny members,” she told Bexley’s full council meeting.

Unite claims the latest round of industrial action has been sparked “because Serco have failed to offer our members a decent wage”, and had failed to pay all members previously agreed sick pay.

“Their current paltry offer is £10.15 an hour – rejected by our members – is even below the London ‘living wage’, currently £10.75,” Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said this week.

She also said the offer had also been rejected “because Serco has failed to deal with an insidious bullying culture at the Crayford depot”.

The five days of strike action are set for July 30, 31 and August 3,4 and 6, running from 5am to 9am each day.