WDC Waste collection industrial action update

Monday 23rd May 2022 – Waste collection and street cleansing industrial action update

We sincerely regret that the strike by members of the GMB union working for Biffa in Wealden continues and is likely to extend into next week.

Our waste contractor, Biffa, have informed us that the GMB union have notified them of their intention to extend the strike action up to the 11th June 2022.  This is disappointing bearing in mind Biffa reiterate they remain committed to resolving this dispute and will continue to engage with representatives of the GMB union to reach a fair settlement for their employees and the residents of Wealden. 

The latest statement from Biffa is:

“The Trade Union has rejected our enhanced offer which included above inflationary increases and pay parity with the other two councils in the East Sussex contract, which is disappointing.  We are working hard to minimise any disruption to service while GMB members continue to strike.”

The deal that has been rejected by the GMB union, but accepted by the union Unison which also has members working for Biffa, would see pay increase by up to 17% this year plus a £600.00 performance related bonus.  This would see annual pay levels for loader operatives at over twenty three thousand pounds, this being several thousand pounds above that of the National Minimum Wage and the higher National Living Wage, with higher paid driver roles receiving equally generous increases.  By comparison, the pay award for nurses for 2022/23 is expected to be up to 3% and State pensions are to increase by 3.1% for 2022. 

We understand that local GMB representatives have been commenting making statements regarding Biffa not engaging with them in meaningful negotiations.  Regrettably it is difficult to do so when those same representatives make statements such as “we mustn’t start negotiating until the rubbish piles up in the streets.”  Instead, as a national waste contractor, Biffa have been in communication with the GMB’s national office to try to make progress.  In addition, Biffa are to meet with representatives of the GMB union and the independent conciliation and arbitration service, ACAS, this week to further explore opportunities that may be able to resolve the dispute.

We continue to believe our residents deserve to know this information to take an informed view on the merits of the industrial action being taken and, whether the strike is being extended unnecessarily by the GMB union.  

In the meantime, recognising waste collections have been severely disrupted for our residents for more than three weeks, Biffa have been working to introduce temporary pop-up waste sites in local towns and villages for residents to bring their household rubbish to for disposal without having to travel to the County Council’s local amenity tips.  With non-recyclable general household waste being the priority these sites will not be available to dispose of recycling and garden waste, at least in the first instance. 

We can now confirm the first of these sites will operate in Hailsham this Wednesday 25th May between 8am and 2pm and, if successful, more will be made available in towns and villages across the southern half of Wealden where no refuse collections have been taking place.  Except for some isolated locations, refuse collections in the north of Wealden have been continuing largely unaffected, although again we regret there have been no recycling or garden waste collections. 

Details of what waste can be taken to these sites, together with the locations, dates and opening times, will be published on our website.

Once again, we apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused by this situation and thank you for your cooperation and understanding during this time. 

The following are services that will be operating in full or in part today: 

  • Rubbish collections – Approximately half of the rounds scheduled to empty rubbish bins today are working.  Please put your rubbish bin out if you are due a collection today. If it is not emptied please leave it in place for three working days as efforts are being made to catch up on missed rubbish collections.  If its remains uncollected after this, please take it back in and use the link below to our questions and answers to find out what to do.
  • Clinical waste and sharps box collections – operating as normal
  • Bulky Waste Collections – operating as normal
  • Bin deliveries and exchanges – operating as normal
  • Street litter bins and dog waste bins – some disruption to services

The following are services that will not be operating today: 

  • Approximately half of the rubbish collections (see above)
  • Garden Waste Collections
  • Recycling Collections

We appreciate this is an inconvenience and concern to residents and we apologise for this situation while Biffa and the GMB union work to reach a fair settlement.