Bins, leisure and crematorium strikes loom as Colchester becomes city

Refuse workers, leisure staff and crematorium employees at Colchester Council could walk out over the borough’s refusal to pass on a nationally agreed local government pay rise in full, warns UNISON today.

Workers at the council and Colchester Borough Homes agreed a 2.5-3% local pay rise in February but since then inflation has spiralled and employers nationally have agreed a £1,925 rise across local government.

Council chiefs in Colchester reluctantly offered to implement the national rise, but only backdate it to September, leaving staff hundreds of pounds out of pocket, UNISON says.

Pay already lags behind other councils in the area, with bin lorry drivers in Chelmsford on around £2,500 more than their colleagues in Colchester, a gulf that’s set to widen when Chelmsford staff get their full backdated £1,925 pay rise.

The union will now open a strike ballot on Thursday (24 November), the day after Colchester receives its letters patent to become a city.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “Colchester’s civic leaders lauded city status as a great way to boost the local economy and provide new opportunities for residents. It’s hard to see how that squares with this determination to hold down the wages of council staff.

“Rather than a bright new day, the new city could be faced with bins going uncollected and leisure centres being shut down within weeks.

“Council workers are vital to the city’s success but they’re some of the worst-paid local government staff in the region. All they want is the same pay rise as their colleagues across local government have received. It’s really not too much to ask.”