Colchester’s bins, leisure services and crematoriums could be hit by strikes

Workers in Colchester’s bin depots, leisure centres and crematoriums are voting on strikes over the city council’s refusal to offer a decent pay rise, UNISON warns today.

Colchester staff had asked for an above-inflation pay rise to make up for years of wages failing to keep pace with the rising cost of living. But the council has only offered a rise of £1,000 — around half the £1,925 councils are offering nationally — and a one-off lump sum.

UNISON launches a strike ballot at Colchester City Council and Colchester Borough Homes today after months of talks have failed to get a better offer.

The union says any strikes could hit refuse collections, including brown bins that will be charged for from January, leisure, crematoriums, parking enforcement and housing services.

Colchester Council workers were poised to walk out this January after the council refused to implement the 2022/23 national local government pay deal in full but action was called off after council bosses agreed to match the rise.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Sam Older said: “Council staff are providing vital services for communities in Colchester but they’re finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

“Colchester is already paying its workers less than neighbouring councils, unless bosses rethink their penny-pinching, staff will just decide to go up the A12 to somewhere they can get better pay for doing exactly the same job.

“Staff see straight through bosses’ pleas of poverty — councils elsewhere are willing to increase pay by nearly double what workers in Colchester are being offered.

“Council bosses don’t need to create chaos for staff and residents, they just need to come back to the negotiating table with an offer that helps its workers keep their heads above water.”