Refuse collection staff in Thanet vote in favour of strike action in dispute over pay

Waste operatives

Refuse workers at Thanet council who are GMB union members have voted to take strike action if a dispute over pay is not resolved.

Staff took part in a ballot on the action during a meeting at the Manston Road depot earlier this week.

Of the 59 GMB members, 34 voted, and of those, 30 (88%) voted for strike action. GMB officer Gary Palmer says some were unable to be balloted but were backing a decision to move forward now rather than wait for a re-ballot.

Mr Palmer said staff were being paid at a rate “well below what they should get for the job they do.”

He said: “They need to go up a council (pay) banding and be at the top of that banding to bring them up to a proper pay level and reflect the very good work they do for the residents of Thanet.”

Mr Palmer says the request was put to Thanet council but accused the authority of ‘filibustering’ (obstructing) progress and said although the authority claimed to be working on pay increase offers it was taking “a significantly long time.”

He says further anger was provoked by a letter from Thanet council to staff outlining plans to invest in the depot and create hardstanding for refuse vehicles.

Mr Palmer said: “At a time when the guys are asking for money so they can stop using food banks and feed their families properly and make a decent living, they are extremely angry that investment for hard standing is taking priority.”

Mr Palmer said pay rates across workers varied but members would be looking for a percentage rise in the mid-20s.

A notice of strike is likely to be issued to the council on May 15 giving two weeks notice of industrial action.

Mr Palmer said: “Strike notice is the last thing we want to do but nobody is talking to us and pay is appalling so there is no other option.

“The aim of strike notice is to force employers back to the table. Strike notices will continue to be issued until such time as the council takes this matter seriously. They need to stop talking about what they are going to do in several months time, our members can’t go in the supermarket and say our pay goes up in 6 months time. Our members are too desperate to hang about.”

Mr Palmer says staff have now received letters to say Thanet council will be bringing security to the depot during any picket action.

He said members would not have a problem if agency staff were used to cross the picket but if agency workers are used to attempt to drive vehicles out of the depot “that will not be happening.”

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing our residents with essential services and our staff play a critical role in enabling us to do this.

“We haven’t received notice of strike action. We have invited representatives from both GMB and Unison to attend meetings held previously to discuss the specific issue of market rates and the wider review of pay. GMB haven’t attended.

“We are now in the process of arranging a further meeting to discuss the situation, with the aim of reaching an agreement. We recognise the need to support our staff and competitive pay is important for recruitment and retention.”

Waste and recycling workers with the GMB have also been taking action over pay in areas including Brighton. Strikes in Ashford were called off after an ’11th hour’ deal was reached.

Recent refuse collector vacancies – via agency – were being advertised at £10.42 per hour.


    • It seems some did not get the ballot papers but didn’t want to wait for a second vote to be carried out

  1. Best of luck to the refuse workers. Job has got more complex over the years but this is not reflected in pay grades. This is the Council that paid useless chief officers six and seven figure golden handshakes!

  2. Strange that every public sector worker feels that they deserve at lease a 20% pay rise , only topped by the Doctors who think they deserve 35%, have not the last 10 +years of austerity followed by covid sunk in at all, rhere isn’t a golden goose that can give these fantastical pay rises.Tax will go up, services will go down and we will all be worse off, except of course those public sector workers.

    • Unless you’re an MP, in which case there’s plenty of money to give you a well-above inflation par rise.

    • John,you clearly don’t understand how low the pay is for the men,they should have a pay rise,as should NHS staff ext ,this government is cutting everything, taking the NHS apart, keeping wages low,but there the ones that have made millions over COVID with the dodgy deals for PPE ext ext but your clearly have no idea and more then likely a Torie

  3. That is one problem for the new council to sort out, on wages like that it’s a a wonder they can afford to buy food what with all the increasing this year including council tax fuel for cars and housing rentals or mortgages, wish them all the best and hope they get a raise without striking be nice for the new council to get of on a good foot.

  4. I find it interesting this all happened 2 days ago and has clearly been kept from residents till after local election ballots have closed

  5. Good luck and I hope they get it.

    The money being taken from society by the rich 5% and the obscene profits from companies like shell. Ridiculous that people in comments still claim there is no money. No rich are allowing rich to take the money. Close tax loop holes and tax big corporations. Other countries do.

  6. We always need manual workers. Unfortunately some people think profits come before people

  7. Solidarity and support to them. Public Workers are pitifully undervalued. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do as tough a job as that for under the Real Living wage. It’s a sign of the times that so many people instantly just accuse people that feel the need to strike for fair pay of being greedy/lazy/avaricious rather than thinking why someone would feel the need to do it – doing such a demanding job and still wondering if you can heat and eat must be supremely demoralizing.

  8. It’s a bit difficult to form an opinion ,on whether a pay rise in general and the amount in particular, in the absence of any knowledge as to the current package the workers are on. To say they should be at the top of the next paygrade is all well and good but means nothing in way of numbers, plus what else is in the overall employment contract. Pension, holiday , sick pay, hours worked, overtime rates ( if applicable) etc etc.

  9. Solidarity with our GMB refuse workers. They deserve respect and to be paid a real living wage.

    Lc are you a member of ACAS? If you can’t form an opinion why bother to comment? Most people read and find out before pontificating.

    • Excuse me for wanting sufficient information to make a balanced opinion, the only reference to pay in the article is in respect of an add from an agency. Blindly supporting a group of workers just because they want more is just pathetic, what’s your definition of a “real living wage” ? How far is that from the current deal the refuse crews are on? What % uplift is needed to reach the figure you feel is deserved? Are the crews made up workers in full time posts or do some have part time contracts , it all makes a difference in the real world.

  10. I can imagine many people wanting to do there job. There walking a fair few miles every week . Then come the summer you have the maggots and flys to deal with . I can’t imagine there wages are that high as manual workers one any council arnt paid that well. Good luck

  11. The Real Living wage is a provable, calculated thing based on the cost of living and what one needs to be paid in order to achieve it – it’s currently £10.90 per hour.

    I really can’t fathom this resistance to people being paid fairly – it’s presumably from people who also don’t want to see pubs/restaurants/shops closing down because people can’t afford to go to them.. a high tide raises all boats and people having a disposable income is good for everyone!

  12. Have a play with A quick example , over 23 working 37 hours a week at 11 an hour, partner two children 4/6, renting for 650 a month in margate ( current lha amount , but not enough these days) , would receive universal credit of £281 a week on top of their wage, a total income of over £2800 a month once you include child benefit ( which everyone gets regardless of working ) , all of a sudden that individuals £11 an hour job looks pretty well paid, compared to the single with no dependents colleague beside them.
    The whole subject of work and reward is complex.

  13. Strangely enough I was thinking a few days ago if our refuse workers would follow others and ballot for a decent wage that does not need government help to survive. Is Lc a Tory MP.? It is just what they would be saying sunshine. I for one would never do their job for the money they receive. Perhaps Lc and those that moan should try it for a few weeks.
    Thanet Council is a very wasteful one over the years and not always been an honest one either. Money slips through the fingers of consultations so fast it must be on speed. Councillors need to make decisions instead of saying we need another consultation. Perhaps afraid to make any decent decisions. Anyway I hope the men get a decent raise.

    • No not an mp , just aware of how distorted and dispiriting the world of work becomes at the lower end of the pay scale and the absurdity of the tax/benefit system. In the example i gave it effectively values the worker with a partner and 2 kids etc at around 40k before tax, tdc don’t want to pay that directly because of the national insurance and pension payments on top . But for people to see what they are really worth , everyone should be paid the applicable gross rate and then taxed as deemed fit, the worker in the example wouldn’t pay much , but a single under 35 ( only entitled to shared room rate under lha if renting) with no partner or kids will pay about 50% tax if they are paid the same for their work ( as they should be) , of course then everyone else in the pay scales will want more, council tax bills would rocket and we’d all be after rises and so ad infinitum.
      The world of work and benefits is a total mess , means that some have no incentive to work harder or improve their skills ( they just lose the benefits) whilst others become dispirited as they see others doing identical work so much better off.
      Neither party has any intention of sorting the mess out.

  14. Maybe the manager that has been caught drink driving in there depot maybe his wages if they sack him (or cover it up) could cover these peoples pay rise,

    • Tdc has had a few alcoholics in its ranks over the years, they’re allowed to continue working but get shuffled from department to department until they eventually retire either on medical grounds or having reached retirement age.

  15. 20% on the named £10.54 an hour would take it up to £12.60 ish. Not exactly greedy in this day and age

    • Not at all, but the quoted 10.54 is from an advert put up by an agency, so may not be what council employess earn, as in the article the rep states workers are on different rates at least some will be on more. Which is why detail of the current pay deals would be helpful.

  16. Let’s hope they improve the service , ie pick up the rubbish they drop in the road and put the bins back where they come from not on the pavement waiting for the residents to come home from work.

  17. Good for them. Refuse collectors do a very difficult job, some of them walk 16 miles or so on a shift. They carried during the pandemic when many workers got furlough. It’s essential work and they deserve good pay that reflects inflation. No workers should be relying on food banks.

  18. I see some of you have not understood the issues.Let me explain:
    *Austerity was a disaster because it underfunded the NHS and local govt, and now we have a housing shortage and a black hole where adult social care should be.The Govt did this just at the time when the demographics of the country was moving towards an enormous bill for pensions, as the boomers retired.Austerity should have meant a general restraint on expenditure and an increase in income, especially in capital gains and very high incomes.We have an enormous disparity in income + wealth.
    *Some groups have their incomes protected, but many refuse workers,teachers, NHS workers almost every working sector has under inflation rises.
    * The young are really suffering, with high rents, insecure working, poor prospects, minimal pensions, and unless the bank of Mum +Dad step, no chance of home ownership.They will also have to work till they are 70, and believe me as one who is/has done it, its too much.You try lugging bins around in your 60’s.
    *In 2010 there were very few food banks, now they are a growth sector, what does that say about our society.

    I think we have to sit down and start running Kent, Thanet, and the UK on a rational, fair and reasonable basis, instead of what a set of ageing male trolls on social media think or want. I am a republican, but I think the monarch understands this, but down in the golf club, maybe the penny has not dropped yet, and for them, the pain is going to become acute, after all they voted for Truss, not Sunak.

  19. Good luck to them! I have just received a 10.1% increase in my state pension, if all the essential workers, by that I mean Doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, Fire & Rescue services, teachers, postal workers, rail workers, border force officers, civil servants, lawyers and barristers, make your own list, had had a similar rise, they would not have been forced to have taken any strike action! Here’s a thought, how much better off do you think you are today to say 13 years ago, when the Tory’s came to power? Your not unless you have had a 20% increase in your income since then! Here’s another thought, if MP’s have pay awards that keep up with inflation, why are essential workers like I have listed not had the same? Its because they are being forced to pay for Tory economic incompetence for the last 13 years thats why! Up the workers!

  20. Yet you don’t see people who work in shops and supermarkets going on strike, they are working for minimum wage. Imagine if all the shop workers decided to strike and everything closed, then there would be a panic.

  21. Pay the refuse collectors a good income above the minimum wage but tied to sensible productivity. TDC needs to invest in more manual workers .
    Manual workers are essential to the successful running of any council their value is immeasurable.
    Ironically refuse collection and road sweeping services have been poor in parts of Thanet for years , although there have been noticeable improve to in recent times.

    If pay and conditions were improved then better performance would likely follow.
    This is difficult demanding work and this deserves recognition through pay.

    TDC has wasted millions in mismanagement and scandals resulting in payouts over the past decade, these have generally benefited white collar workers !

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