Majority of Barking and Dagenham’s striking GMB members return to work

Members of the GMB union on strike. 80 per cent of refuse drivers have gone back to work, but furthe

Members of the GMB union on strike. 80 per cent of refuse drivers have gone back to work, but further talks between the council and GMB have come to nothing - Credit: Archant

The end of the bin strike is “not a victory for the council”, but a victory for “common sense” according to Barking and Dagenham’s cabinet member for finance.

Cllr Dominic Twomey

Cllr Dominic Twomey - Credit: Archant

The industrial walk-outs, which started back in March, were effectively brought to an end today, with 76 of the 106 GMB members agreeing terms to return to work.

Initially called by the GMB, Unite and Unison unions, workers claimed council changes to working conditions would leave drivers £1,000 a year worse off and cut the time allowed for safety checks on wagons.

Although the latter two unions agreed terms including a one-off £500 payment for each worker at the end of April, GMB members continued strike action which had been due to end at the end of this week.

While 30 drivers are yet to return, Cllr Dominic Twomey insists the borough’s waste and refuse services are “fully operational” once more, though it will take two weeks to catch up with the back-log.

“It’s not a victory for the council,” he said. “It’s not about being a victory.

“We offered a fair deal and we’re glad that drivers have taken it upon themselves to sign up to that deal.

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“Common sense has won the day.”

Although other council staff had been recruited to deliver the borough’s green garden waste collection service during the disruption, Cllr Twomey also revealed a further six drivers had been hired on short-term contracts last week.

While the newly-returned GMB drivers have accepted the same terms as agreed by Unison and Unite workers five weeks ago, the borough’s finance member believes staff were brought around by the recent lack of earnings.

“I am sure they realised it’s a fair deal,” he added. “Unfortunately some of the drivers have lost quite a lot of income.

“While the GBM members have been striking it’s actually cost them more than they could have gained.”