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Kensington & Chelsea SITA street cleaners to be balloted for strike action over pay
On Monday, GMB, the union for public services workers in the UK, gave notice of an official ballot for strike action for 70 GMB members employed by contractor SITA on the street cleansing contract with Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) - the most affluent borough in London - in a dispute over pay.
GMB members who clean the streets of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea have won it the accolade of the cleanest in London in 2012. And although they work hard and are well respected by the residents and visitors to the borough, this is not reflected in their pay, which is said to be the lowest for street cleansing staff across the capital.
GMB, which represents all the street cleansing staff on the contract, claims that these street cleaners have only received 5p an hour increase in the last two years and that there has been no pay offer at all this year. In March GMB submitted a pay claim for the London Living Wage of £8.30 per hour. Street cleaners on the contract in the borough are £7.85 an hour which is 45p per hour lower.
GMB has been in protracted negotiations.
"Unfortunately these negotiations have gone nowhere as SITA has not made any offer to increase pay during months of negotiations," warns Gary Carter, GMB Organiser. "GMB has a mandate from our members for an industrial action ballot following a unanimous vote in a consultative ballot to support the campaign for the London Living Wage."
Next Tuesday, 9th October, ballot papers will be sent to members and on 19th October the ballot will close. With the requirement to give seven days notice of strike action, the first date that strike action could take place is 29th October.
"I expect these workers to vote for strike action and we will meet after the ballot closes to fix dates for action unless SITA puts an offer on the table," says Gary.
"Other wage rates on the Kensington & Chelsea contract have not even kept pace with inflation, or with pay rates on other contracts, which have increased on average by 2% to 3% each year - unlike RBKC, where staff have received less than 1% in the last three years.
"Where once RBKC rates set the standard and attracted staff, SITA is now finding it hard to recruit and retain quality staff because pay has stagnated and fallen significantly behind comparable wage rates.
"Workers look at other employers. For example an NSL parking employee earns £8.34 per hour while a City of London sweeper earns £8.30 per hour, with a pay award pending. Very few workers can afford to live locally, so the pay rate and travel is always a consideration for people who pass other workplaces on their way to work.
"Workers are no longer willing to put up with low pay. What you now have is an ethnically diverse workforce, who want to be treated fairly and wants to earn a reasonable week's pay. Considering that the average weekly wage in the borough is reported to be £1,305.00, the London Living Wage of £332.00 per week, is surely not too much to ask.
"If this situation is not addressed by the Council and SITA then the pay gap will get wider and become harder to breach. This will cause greater inequality, unfairness and the effect will be a deteriorating service to residents and soured employment relations."
SITA UK was established in 1988 and currently employs more than 5,500 people.
4th October 2012