Refuse workers across east Suffolk are voting on strike action over a pay offer that fails to address years of stagnant wages, says UNISON today.
The union is urging Norfolk County Council-owned Norse and East Suffolk Council, which are jointly responsible for the contract, to make an improved offer and avoid disruption to residents.
Workers are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, coming after more than a decade of below-inflation pay deals, says UNISON.
Many are now making just above the minimum wage, with some forced to sleep on friends’ sofas and take out loans to pay the bills because they cannot make ends meet, the union warns.
East Suffolk Norse has offered to implement a nationally agreed £1,925 rise promised to other local government workers, plus an extra 75p an hour. But refuse staff say that will still leave them battling to keep their heads above water.
Workers have now launched an industrial action ballot today and will vote over the next three weeks.
UNISON Eastern regional organiser Cameron Matthews said: “No-one can doubt refuse workers’ commitment to keeping east Suffolk running – they’ve gone out in all weathers and through a global pandemic in the last decade but have still seen the value of their wages fall and fall.
“This offer may seem good on paper but it still leaves workers just above the poverty line. None of them want to go on strike and cause disruption to residents but bosses’ thanks haven’t put food on the table.
“We urge Norse and East Suffolk to come up with an offer that addresses the rock-bottom wages on this contract and treat refuse staff with the dignity they deserve.”