Strike action by recycling collectors at Kier Ltd in Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) will continue after members of Britain’s biggest union, Unite, rejected the company’s latest pay offer in an ongoing £2 an hour pay disparity dispute.
The workers, operating out of the Keynsham depot, voted overwhelmingly for strike action with 86% in favour and 100% in favour of action short of strike at the end of December 2015, over alleged pay inequality.
Unite says the workers are paid up to 25% less than employees at the nearby Bristol site.
The Unite members rejected the company’s latest 3% pay offer at a meeting held last week, following make- or- break talks at the conciliation service, Acas.
Unite regional officer Jerry Pickford – “The company’s continued refusal, despite repeated attempts, to take the concerns of its hardworking workforce seriously is the last straw”
In talks stretching back to September 2015, Unite has made clear throughout that it does not expect full parity in pay to be met at once, but would accept this being reached over this and the next two pay reviews.
Unite regional officer Jerry Pickford said: “The bottom line is that seven miles down the road employees are being paid up to 25 per cent more an hour to do the same job with loaders at the Keynsham depot earning less than the living wage, on just £7.81 an hour.
“The company’s continued refusal, despite repeated attempts, to take the concerns of its hardworking workforce seriously is the last straw.
“The people of Bath and North East Somerset need to know that Kier Ltd has been dragging its feet over this dispute for months now with no serious commitment to reaching an agreement. It is simply not acceptable that such a huge variation in pay is allowed to persist.
“Our members have been left with no option but to continue with the series of strikes and overtime ban. We urge Kier Ltd to stop dragging its feet and commit to resolving this dispute.”
Strike action will continue with a series of 48 hour stoppages throught January and the beginning of February.
Kier – “We are very sorry for the disruption that the strike is causing residents, but unfortunately due to strike laws we are unable to use any additional resource to offset the impact of the strike”
A Kier spokesperson said: “We are really frustrated and disappointed that UNITE refused to move from a position of demanding a 20% pay increase, rejecting an industry-leading offer totalling 12% over the next 18 months: 3% now backdated to July 2015, 4% in July 2016 and 5% in July 2017, choosing instead to end talks and enter a 24 hour strike (Friday 8 January).
“We are very sorry for the disruption that the strike is causing residents, but unfortunately due to strike laws we are unable to use any additional resource to offset the impact of the strike. The strike was not a unanimous one as far as the whole depot workforce is concerned, and the agency staff that UNITE refers to as they well know, are the existing agency team that already work on this contract, who haven’t chosen to strike.
“This existing crew are working incredibly hard to mitigate the impact of the strike. Until yesterday (Thursday 7 January) we were bound by the ACAS talks being confidential, which if broken can be used as an excuse to end negotiations.
“Now that UNITE has ended talks we have set up a dedicated web page (www.kier.co.uk/bath-northeastsomerset-recycling) to share updates with residents, but we would ask for their ongoing patience because we are also facing problems with the picket line, which this morning (Friday 8 January) involved several union representatives using vehicles to block our vehicles leaving the depot.”