Cleaner, greener borough? Foul stinking rubbish piled chest high as bin men walk out in Tower Hamlets in pay dispute

25 September 2023, 17:11

The bin strikes are set to last two weeks.
The bin strikes are set to last two weeks. Picture: Getty

By Jenny Medlicott

Spoiled rubbish was left mounting high across the streets of Tower Hamlets as waste collection workers started their second week of strikes over pay.

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Locals were outraged by the piled rubbish in Tower Hamlets after bin collectors started their second week of strikes over pay.

It comes after Unite the Union announced that more than 200 workers had rejected a national flat rate pay rise of £1,925 as they said it amounted to a real terms pay cut.

Photos and videos shared online show towers of rubbish piled high on the streets with waste overflowing onto the pavements.

Many pointed to the “irony” of the situation, as the borough’s waste bags are labelled “working together for a cleaner borough”.

Bin collectors and street cleaners in Tower Hamlets began their two-week walk out over pay on September 18 and is set to end on Sunday 1 October.

“We value our frontline staff and know how hard they work. This strike is a national pay dispute and not limited to local issues,” the Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman said.

The bin strikes started in Tower Hamlets last week.
The bin strikes started in Tower Hamlets last week. Picture: Getty

“We apologise to our residents and businesses and want to assure them we are doing our best to maintain services throughout.”

Many have urged the Tower Hamlets cancel to reach a solution on the strikes, as one wrote online: “Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman must act right away on this Waste Emergency!”

While another wrote: “Tower Hamlets rubbish getting out of control.”

However, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members provide critical frontline council services. Despite the essential roles our members undertake their employer thinks it is acceptable to propose what amounts to yet another real terms pay cut, at a time when they increasingly can’t make ends meet.

“Unite never takes a backward step in supporting its members and is dedicated to enhancing their jobs, pay and conditions. Unite will be providing members at Tower Hamlets with its complete support.”

Unite regional officer Nick West added: “The proposed strike action will inevitably cause major disruption to bin collections and street cleaning services in Tower Hamlets. This dispute is a direct result of local government employers failing to value workers and failing to reward them for their hard work.”

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Locals took to social media amid the strikes.
Locals took to social media amid the strikes. Picture: Getty

It comes after Unite the Union announced last week that planned bin strikes in Newham had been called off after the Waste and Recycling Service agreed on a deal with the council.

The strikes in the borough were originally set to take place for four weeks.

Tower Hamlets council wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “We understand concerns about the waste strike action and sincerely apologise to all our residents.

“We would like to reassure you that we are taking the following measures.

“Starting today (Saturday) private waste company Bywaters will be clearing the build-up of waste:

  • We are prioritising high rise buildings, markets, commercial areas and main highways
  • We are reallocating staff who are not striking to cover missed collections
  • We are clearing parks and disposing of waste
  • Tower Hamlets Homes are taking waste from their estates to the disposal site
  • We have staff on the street ensuring waste is contained in specific areas and that litter does not escape.”