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Countrystyle Recycling comments on the proposed strike action by Unite the Union to take place in July in relation to it’s Bexley Council Street Services Contract
Countrystyle Recycling took over the London Borough of Bexley Street Services contract on 4th October 2021.
As part of the efforts to bring to an end the last strike by staff employed on the Contract that took place in July-August 2021 during Serco’s management of the Contract, Countrystyle delivered to all staff, the Union’s demand for, pay parity and a “fair rate for the job”. Countrystyle also increased all staff’s holiday entitlement to 25 days per annum from 1st Jan 2022.
At the same time, Unite agreed to Countrystyle’s offer of a further 2% pay rise in April 2022 or a higher percentage if this was the outcome of the National Joint Council’s (NJC) central pay and conditions negotiations with the Local Government Association (LGA). Countrystyle acknowledged that any such pay award would be back-dated to 1st April 2022. The 3 main UK Unions, including Unite, are represented on the NJC.
The NJC have only just delivered their demands for the 2022/23 Pay Negotiations to the LGA which would normally have been issued in April each year. Countrystyle awarded all staff their promised 2% pay rise effective from 1st April 2022 and continued to stand by its offer to match the NJC offer.
Accepting that the current squeeze on the standard of living means that staff should not have to wait for the outcome of their own Union’s central pay negotiations, on 25th May 2022, Countrystyle offered Bexley Street Services staff an additional 6% pay rise to be back-dated to 1st April 2022. This represented an 8% pay offer overall for the year commencing April 2022. In addition, Countrystyle guaranteed a further 5% pay increase for April 2023, giving a 13% pay rise over 2 years.
However, Countrystyle has made its offer conditional on applying an up-to-date and relevant interpretation of the concept of “job and finish” than that currently applied by Unite members of staff. Countrystyle has an obligation to deliver an efficient and quality service to the residents of Bexley. Simply interpreted, this means:
- emptying all bins in presented in time by residents on their allocated day for collection, limiting the number of missed bins; and
- ensuring bins are returned correctly to where they have been presented by residents
Countrystyle has therefore introduced a “Group Task & Finish” requirement for all crews collecting the same type of waste stream (e.g refuse or recycling) each working day. This means crews will be asked to help each other out, by collecting additional bins that may have been missed by another grouped crew, for example, due to vehicle breakdown or staff illness. Under no circumstances are Countrystyle requiring staff to work longer than their contracted hours or refusing to pay overtime where this has been worked. As part of this Group Task & Finish, debrief times for crews will always fall within the contracted hours of all staff.
Since taking over the contract in October 2021 and assuming the current total 8% pay rise for 2022 is accepted, the average pay increase for staff employed on frontline services under the Contract is 19%.
Countrystyle’s Compliance Director, Stuart Butler-Gallie commented as follows:
“Countrystyle believes that its offer of an 8% pay rise for 2022 is fair, reasonable and sensible in the current economic climate where every company needs to act responsibly to avoid fuelling wage inflation, whilst recognising the challenges that its staff face through the squeeze on living standards.”
Mr Butler-Gallie added:
“Countrystyle strongly rejects any suggestion that it has bullied any staff. Countrystyle is entitled to issue reasonable management instructions to ensure that it delivers an efficient and quality service to the residents of Bexley. This is not about scrapping employees’ contractual rights, it is about a modern interpretation of working together to deliver the service”.