Wealden bin strikes: Biffa’s failure to propose 'serious' offer to end dispute branded a ‘disgrace’ by GMB Union

GMB Union says that, four weeks into industrial action for better wages, the refuse service provider and Wealden Council have underestimated the resolve and anger of workers and support from local people.

Four weeks of industrial action have significantly impacted on waste services across Wealden.

Three GMB members were arrested on Friday, May 27 during a demonstration at the local Biffa depot.

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Keyworkers will continue to strike and peacefully demonstrate until a ‘serious’ offer is made that will resolve this dispute, says the GMB.

Biffa's failure to propose a serious offer to resolve the Wealden bin strike has been branded a 'disgrace that is hitting keyworkers and local people hard' by GMB Union

GMB national officer Sharon Wilde, said: “Biffa’s failure to table a serious offer to resolve this dispute is a disgrace that is hitting keyworkers and local people hard.

“Refuse workers, who were rightly clapped by the public for keeping key services going during the pandemic, find themselves getting poverty pay and, with energy and food bills skyrocketing, it is impossible for many to get by on these wages.

“Biffa and Wealden Council have totally underestimated the resolve of GMB members who, after four weeks of industrial action, remain as committed as ever to securing an agreement that properly recognises the crucial public service they perform.

“GMB members have received fantastic support from local people, and in failing to get round the table and talk about an offer that works, it’s clear that Biffa is out of step with the public.

“GMB members working for Biffa across the country are appalled by the actions of the company in Wealden and will not shy away from taking decisive action as they prepare their own response to poverty pay and the cost of living crisis.”

A Biffa spokesperson said: "We’re disappointed that the GMB has rejected our improved offer.

"We enhanced the offer with a proposal for a two-year deal which included significantly above inflation increases (17 per cent for this year and a minimum of seven per cent next year, a cash lump sum, and pay parity with the other two councils in the East Sussex contract.)

“The offer was made following a constructive day of negotiations facilitated by ACAS and unfortunately members have chosen to continue with strike action. We are working hard to minimise any disruption to service.”

A spokesperson from Wealden District Council added: “We are disappointed that we are entering the fifth week of the strikes.

"There have been multiple serious pay offers made by Biffa to staff with the latest offer of up to 17 per cent plus a £600 guaranteed bonus.

"This pay increase will see loader operatives on an annual salary of over £23,000 - several thousands of pounds above the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage.

"This pay deal has been accepted by Unison members and the increase has been applied to the salaries of all staff who have continued to work.

“We have seen a change in the public’s perception over the last week towards the striking staff. Across our social media we have seen a growing response of anger from residents at the lack of compromise the GMB are willing to give on the back of a very good pay offer.

"Today we have been informed that the GMB intend to continue their industrial action until June 25.

“Residents are worried about the implications the strikes will have on the Jubilee celebrations which are fast approaching. We urge the GMB members to accept the pay offer and end the strike action.”