Tower Hamlets recycling van. Image credit: TJStamp
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Hundreds of refuse workers in Tower Hamlets to strike this September

Hundreds of refuse workers and street cleaners in Tower Hamlets will strike this September following pay disagreement with council.

More than 200 workers who are employed by Tower Hamlets Council and are part of Unite the union have rejected a national pay offer of a £1,925 rise as it’s a “real terms pay cut” and is below the rate of inflation.

Strike action will take place from Monday, September 18 to Sunday, October 1 and is expected to cause “major disruption” to the borough’s bin collections and street cleaning services.

Unite regional officer, Nick West, said: “The proposed strike action will inevitably cause major disruption to bin collections and street cleaning services in Tower Hamlets. This dispute is a direct result of local government employers failing to value workers and failing to reward them for their hard work.”

According to a survey carried out by Unite, six per cent of its members have been “forced” to use food banks while 30per cent are struggling to afford food and clothing. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members provide critical frontline council services.

“Despite the essential roles our members undertake their employer thinks it is acceptable to propose what amounts to yet another real terms pay cut, at a time when they increasingly can’t make ends meet.” 

Cllr Asma Begum, of Bow West, said problems with poor working conditions, short-staffing and low pay had been impacting the borough’s waste services for “weeks”.

Cllr Begum said: “For weeks, low pay, short-staffing and poor working conditions have left residents without a functioning waste service. So, it is no surprise that workers have decided to reject what would be a real terms pay cut and take industrial action.”

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: “Naturally we are disappointed by the strike as keeping Tower Hamlets’ streets clean and litter-free is our priority. 

“The strike will affect key frontline staff and we are prevented from bringing in additional resource during this time. We will be reallocating existing staff and doing our best to maintain a level of service for residents.”

They added: “During this time, we will be asking residents to help by trying to reduce household waste and where possible reusing or donating any usable unwanted items. People are also encouraged to take their rubbish to the reuse and recycling centre in Yabsley Street.”

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