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Bin crews in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire consider improved pay offer after threatening strike action

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Bin crews in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire are considering a “significantly better” pay review after unanimously rejecting the original offer.

An extra £1,925 is now on the table for Greater Cambridge Shared Waste staff, which council authorities said was “broadly in line with the GMB Union’s request for a 10 per cent pay rise”.

Cambridge and South Cambs new electric bin lorry (53603934)
Cambridge and South Cambs new electric bin lorry (53603934)

That offer will be put to the workers by the union, which had described the original offer of a 2.5 per cent rise plus a £750 one-off payment as “insulting” and warned members would consider strike action.

Gordon White, the regional organiser at GMB Union, told the Cambridge Independent: “An offer was received on Friday morning. We are looking at it at the moment and it is significantly better than the original offer.

“We will need to go back to our members because we are a democratic organisation and we are meeting with the council to understand exactly what is on the table. That conversation is likely to take place on Tuesday.

“We are really pleased that the council are willing to talk to us and I’m really pleased that our members took a unanimous vote that the original offer wasn’t good enough.

“This is a clear indicator of trade union activity working and sending a clear message to the employer to make sure they fully understand what is coming from their members.

“With us giving them that voice, it becomes really powerful and helpful for both sides of the table I think.

“The offer is in line with the NJC - the nationally negotiated offer - which is a flat rate offer of £1,925 and that is what the council is suggesting they are going to mirror, although we want to know the exact details.

“That represents a significantly higher percentage increase for those at the bottom of the pay scale.

“The decision will rest with members. We will make sure members have adequate time to engage with that process and we’ll open up as many routes as possible.

“We will do face-to-face and we will probably do some online meetings, so there are different routes for them to ballot and have their say.”

Greater Cambridge Shared Waste is a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils and collects waste and recycling across both areas.

South Cambridgeshire District Council is the employing authority for the service’s staff.

The GMB Union represents staff across the area and warned after the initial offer that staff had indicated they would be prepared to take industrial action.

Mr White said with the cost of living “running rampant” the original offer was “insulting” and member “stood together to send a clear and unequivocal message that the offer was simply not good enough”.

He added: “The unanimous ballot showed the strength of feeling and that GMB members will stand together and cannot be taken for mugs.”

One of the workers who works in the waste collection team, who wished to remain anonymous, described the initial offer as a “joke”, adding: “I was not surprised if I am honest. We always seem to fall behind. It’s just laughable, such a joke.

“They tried to sway people by offering a £750 one off payment, but once you get taxed on that and National Insurance by the end of it you are lucky if you get £500, which will not pay rent for a month, and then we are stuck at 2.5 per cent until they are willing to offer something else, it’s just disgusting.

“Every single person said no, it’s really good to see we are standing together on this.”

The worker said with fuel, electricity and food bills going up, it was “tough” to get by.

A spokesperson for the district council said: “We have listened to our bin crews and have already put forward an improved pay offer for the unions to consider.

“This matches the national offer of an extra £1,925 for all council staff. This is broadly in line with the GMB Union’s request for a 10 per cent pay rise.

“We are hugely grateful for the crucial role that our bin crews play every day. That has been especially evident during the past two years and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Additional reporting: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

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