Manchester bin strike called off: industrial action axed after workers offered up to 22% pay rise

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Workers have received pay rises of up to 22%, the trade unions supporting them have said today.

The threat of strike action at Manchester’s waste collection services which could have seen up to 220,000 homes not have their bins emptied is over.

Refuse workers employed by Biffa and the GMB and Unite trade unions said on Friday (29 April) that their industrial action was over.

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The employees accepted a revised pay offer from the company which involves wage increases of up to 22%.

The GMB said firms looking to get away with miniscule wage increases in a cost of living crisis should be warned that workers will not hesitate to ballot for strike action, while Manchester City Council has expressed its relief that a deal has been reached.

How was the threatened strike averted?

Biffa employees decided to vote for strike action after the company, which has an outsourced contract with Manchester’s town hall bin collections and street scene services, offered most of its staff a 1.75% pay rise.

The GMB said this would have amounted to a real-terms pay cut and that workers who had been on the front line during the Covid-19 pandemic and are facing spiralling bills deserved more.

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However, the threat of a strike which would have affected some 220,000 homes in Manchester has now been averted after a new two-year pay deal was reached.

This involves a 22% increase for HGV drivers, an 11% pay rise for loaders and wage increases of between 8% and 11% for street scene workers.

A series of dates for the walk-outs had been set, with the first day of action set to have been 3 May.

Unite said the looming threat of workers downing tools had brought Biffa back to the negotiating table with an offer which its members had overwhelmingly accepted.

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The trade union also said Biffa has agreed to further review pay rates this autumn if inflation “stays at an exceptionally high level”.

What have the trade unions said?

Michael Clark, GMB organiser, said: “Our members voices have been heard – because they stood together.

“We would like to thank Manchester City Council and their leader Bev Craig for their assistance in the dispute.

“To other unscrupulous employers take note – the GMB will stand firm against any attempts to enforce pay cuts.”

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Unite regional officer Tanya Sweeney said: “From the beginning Unite made it clear that this dispute could and should be resolved by Biffa returning to the negotiating table and making an offer that our members could accept.

“Once Biffa fully understood the strength of feeling among our members that is what occurred.”

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham added: “This is a great win for our members at Biffa. Their unity secured this improved pay increase.

“At a time of punishing living costs, this deal further demonstrates Unite’s total commitment to improving the pay and conditions of its members.”

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What has Manchester City Council said?

A Manchester City Council spokesperson said: “We have been informed that an agreement has been reached between Biffa and the unions, avoiding strike action and disruption for our residents.

“This is a great result and shows why negotiations are important to reach a settlement each party is comfortable with.

“Thanks to those involved in bringing this matter to a timely conclusion.”

A Biffa spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that this issue has now been resolved.”

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