Tower Hamlets Council reaches deal to end waste strike early with Unite the Union

  • Waste workers striking for up to four weeks over national pay dispute
  • Council brought in private contractors last week due to safety concerns
  • Council recognises local concerns and offers staff additional benefits
  • Mayor thanks all parties for arriving at agreement

Waste service workers and street cleaners will return to work tomorrow (Wed) after the council and Unite the Union negotiated an end to the pay dispute.

For the next few weeks, they will be joined by private waste contractors employed by the council to catch up on missed collections and street cleaning as quickly as possible.

Unite the Union workers had been striking for up to four weeks because of a national pay dispute which was being negotiated on a national level by the union. Unite the Union workers at some other councils had also balloted to go on strike.

However, following concerns from the borough’s Fire Commander last week that the accumulation of refuse was becoming a serious safety issue, the council began employing private contractors to help with the backlog of waste.

While dialogue has been ongoing with Unite the Union throughout, the council also began negotiations last week to see if a local resolution could be found which could result in an end to the strike.

Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, said:

“I want to thank all parties for coming to this agreement and, in particular, I want to thank our residents for their patience and apologise for the inconvenience this has caused.

“We found ourselves in a difficult position because the strike was over a national pay dispute. However, with no resolution in sight, we had to act to see if we could negotiate a local solution.

“We value our refuse staff and we have listened to their concerns to see how we can work constructively and collaboratively to resolve this dispute. Together, we will clear backlogged refuse and clean our streets as quickly as possible.”

Local agreement

Unite the Union had proposed industrial action for up to four weeks starting from Monday 18 September. Today, its Tower Hamlets’ members in the waste service voted to end the strike after agreeing to the following conditions offered by the council. They mean that the terms and conditions of staff who joined the council in 2020 when its waste and cleansing services were brought in house, will now be aligned to other council staff.

Posted on Tuesday 26th September 2023