Bexley residents have been warned to prepare for a 'summer stink' after refuse workers have threatened strike action over pay and working conditions.

Around 140 staff who work for outsourcing giant Serco, who run the borough's waste disposal contract on behalf of Bexley Council, will be voting in the strike ballot.

Union Unite say the workers are furious following a"pathetic" 1.5% payrise offer after battling through successive lockdowns to keep the service running at risk to themselves and their families.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon now says that "unless Serco changes tack, Bexley residents could be facing the prospect of a summer stink as rubbish goes uncollected."

Responding, Serco said they found Unite's decision "extremely disappointing," and have asked the union to continue meaningful discussions.

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The refuse workers say they are paid less than their counterparts in other boroughs and are frustrated at the pay offer, the removal of industrial sickness benefits and Serco's alleged refusal to handover years of backpay ower to nearly 50 staff.

"Serco has failed for half a decade to include refuse staff on a stipulated pay progression scale. The situation has led to instances of refuse truck drivers being on the same pay scale as street sweepers, with some staff being owed thousands in back wages," Unite said.

They say Bexley Council should be thinking closely about whether to continue to award a new contract to Serco later this month after "waste services in disarray, dismal industrial relations and a poor service to residents."

The union say refuse workers in neighbouring Greenwich earn a minimum of £13 an hour, compared to the £10.25 earnt by Serco workers in Bexley which is below the London Living Wage.

Unite warns of rubbish piling high over the summer if strikes go ahead

Unite warns of rubbish piling high over the summer if strikes go ahead

And the dispute has grown in severity, Unite say Serco has increased random workplace drug and alcohol tests, while providing no help or advice for those who may need it. Unite believes this has been done in order target workers for standing up for themselves as the tests were not linked to any reported safety issues.

A Serco spokesperson commented: “We are proud of our workforce and in particular our frontline teams who have delivered essential services to the residents of Bexley throughout the pandemic.

"The decision by Unite to hold a ballot for strike action is extremely disappointing and it is always our intention to work in partnership with trade unions.

"We would like to ask the union to continue meaningful engagement in order to work together to support our workforce as we emerge from the pandemic, ensuring we continue to provide the best possible services on behalf of our customer to the residents of Bexley.”

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Unless Serco changes tack, Bexley residents could be facing the prospect of a summer stink as rubbish goes uncollected.

“Our members’ anger at Serco’s insulting pay offer, refusal to pay significant amounts of owed back wages and low pay in general, is such that Unite has called a strike ballot.

“Feelings are also running very high at Serco’s vindictive and unnecessary use of drug testing to go after staff for standing up for themselves, particularly as the company has offered absolutely no support to staff who may be struggling.

“Rubbish piled high at the height of summer is something no one wants, but unless Serco satisfactorily addresses our members’ concerns, that is what the people of Bexley could be facing.”