Tower Hamlets bin strike: Veolia to meet Unite the Union today

Refuse collectors and strike supporters on the picket line. Picture: Sophie Cox

Refuse collectors and strike supporters on the picket line. Picture: Sophie Cox - Credit: Sophie Cox

Refuse collectors on a week-long strike over unpaid holiday have called on Veolia to pay them what they are due - as plans for a second strike this month were announced.

Veolia - which holds the council's refuse, recycling and street cleaning contract - says it has agreed to meet Unite the Union this morning, Friday, March 13.

The initial strike, which began at 3pm on Monday, March 9, came after members of the Unite union voted for industrial action over holiday pay arrears.

The union claims that Veolia has not settled a collective holiday pay claim despite reaching an agreement with unions in August last year.

While some employees have received the money, the union says others are owed up to £9,000.

Strikers told the Advertiser that only around 40 people had received the money despite many more submitting claims, and that those that were yet to receive money would get only two years of holiday pay rather than five they had claimed for.

John Grover, Unite's branch secretary, said: 'It was five years [of money], we've lost three years. I don't know if we'll even get the two years.'

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He was among dozens of employees to gather outside the depot in Silvocea Way, Poplar - with strikers saying they were demonstrating in shifts to ensure a constant presence.

Many of those taking part in the strike also live in the borough, including Mohamed Uddin.

He said: 'Most of us are residents, we work for our own borough, we're council tax payers. We're owed this money.'

Ruth Hydon, Unite's regional officer, said: 'It's a shame they had to take this action.

'Veolia make millions of pounds each year. They just need to pay.'

She revealed that the union had given notice of a second strike , due to take place across five days from Tuesday, March 24 to Saturday, March 28.

A Veolia spokesman said: 'We can confirm we have agreed to meet with Unite the Union on Friday morning. We have previously reached an agreement with Unite the Union regarding the calculation of holiday pay for its members and have complied with all of our obligations in this respect to ensure employees are being paid correctly.'

A spokesman for Tower Hamlets Council said: 'It is regrettable that Veolia and Unite have not yet been able to resolve this ongoing dispute. While we are working with Veolia to deliver waste services where we can, it is clear already that the current period of industrial action is impacting our residents.

'We continue to urge both sides to come together to agree a way forward and avoid causing further disruption.

'We will of course continue to work with Veolia to ensure that they put contingency plans in place as necessary.'

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