Bexley Council have said they "could not be more disappointed" by the industrial action taken by bin collection workers which has now stretched on for nearly six weeks.

With the bin strikes continuing to cause havoc in the borough, the council have pointed the blame at Unite for refusing to come to an agreement with contractors Serco and for recently rejecting the latest offer.

Leader Teresa O'Neill OBE said the union "appear indifferent to the problems they are causing local people," but the union has accused the council of "nothing but empty words" and said they'd had 18 months to intervene and stop the strikes.

Rubbish has been "piling up " across the borough since the strikes began on July 12 after Unite warned of a "summer of stink."

Local residents have called the streets "absolutely disgraceful" and a "terrible advert for Bexley", with one resident particularly critical of Serco and the council for awarding them the contract.

News Shopper: The strikes could continue until October 3.The strikes could continue until October 3.

People have said they were in a "desperate situation" with the bins now "causing a public health hazard," and some have pointed the blame at Bexley Council for failing to oversee and provide such a vital service.

Industrial action has since been extended multiple times, and now looks set to continue until Serco's contract runs out on October 3.

The council have specified that crews not on strike are working hard to deliver some level of service, and that non-recyclable waste and rubbish bins were being collected, with just recycling bins and garden waste bins not being collected.

The strike centres over several issues, including the poor pay below the London living wage and pay scales which sees and existing drivers paid up to £6,000 less than new recruits.

Leader of the Council Councillor Teresa O'Neill OBE and Councillor Peter Craske Cabinet Member for Places have now issued a further statement saying: "We could not be more disappointed that the industrial action by some Unite members continues to disrupt services to our residents.

"As things stand, Unite's dispute with Serco may continue until 3 October, but we are pressing both sides to keep talking through ACAS and find a compromise that will help us restore services and let those on strike get back to work.

"Despite telling us three weeks ago that they were close to an agreement, Unite have rejected the latest offer from Serco and increased their demands.

"They appear indifferent to the problems they are causing local people."

The council said thank you to everyone who brought their recycling to two local car parks last week which collected more than 18 tonnes of recycling during the morning, and this Saturday, you can take paper and cardboard (blue lidded bin) and plastic, glass, cans and cartons (white lidded bin) to these locations for recycling between 8:30am and 1pm -

  • Nags Head Lane car park, Welling DA16 1QG
  • Avenue Road, Bexleyheath DA7 4RG

"This week we shifted our priority to white recycling bins, to help clear the backlog of plastic packaging, glass, cans and cartons that has built up since the start of the dispute.

"Because the number of crews is much lower than usual, collections will not be fortnightly. It will be several weeks before they can collect everyone's white bin, but please leave them out so they can be picked up.

"We've also extended the opening hours of the two reuse and recycling centres. They are now open from 4pm to 7pm on Tuesday and Thursday evening, which we hope will help people who are unable to visit during the day.

"We are working hard on other ways to help you dispose of your waste until the dispute is settled, so please keep an eye on disruption to waste collection service, our email newsletters and social media for updates."

Unite have accused Bexley Council of "empty words," stating that if the local authority wants a solution to be found then it should intervene.

Unite regional officer Tabusam Ahmed said: “Our members do not want to strike and are well aware of the inconvenience caused to residents. Unfortunately, they have no choice because Serco has refused to put forward any proposals that could end this dispute.

“Our members won’t give up until the pay and drug testing issues are addressed. They have done nothing wrong and it is time for Bexley council to make Serco face up to its responsibilities.”

Bexley Labour have also criticised the council for standing by the remainder of Serco's contract despite their "poor working practices" including paying below the London Living Wage, widespread use of zero hour contracts and agency workers alongside wide disparities in payments for individual staff.

Cllr Daniel Francis said: "While Conservative Councillors claim it is not their responsibility to resolve this issue, Bexley residents will be rightly asking if they pay their council tax to Bexley Council, why can they not resolve issues with the services they pay for?”

Previously, Bexley Council stated they were pushing both sides to sit down and discuss the issues "instead of holding our residents and our vital public services hostage in this way,” adding that they were "furious" at the disruption.

Now, in a letter to staff from Graeme Waugh, Serco's senior contract manager, he said that the company had tabled a formal offer and through ACAs had asked Unite to present this to their members to vote on.

The letter, dated August 12, provided an update on the offer, dismisses many of the claims that around 50 staff members are owed back pay and admits that just one person has been identified so far as being affected, although they do have a list of 16 people who've reported issues.

Discussions have seen an initial pay increase of 1.5% offered, but "in the interest of fairness" this has now been raised to 1.75%, backdated to April 2021,

In response to claims that drug and alcohol testing was excessive and targeted, he said they , but that they have offered to sit down with Unite to work out a better local process to improve the transparency regarding the independent random selection.

Mr Waugh added that he wanted to "thank you for all your hard work and efforts to minimise the disruption to our residents during this difficult time."