20,000 bins in Sydney to go uncollected
City of Sydney waste workers will walk off the job for the sixth time in less than five months, a move that will result in more than 20,000 bins uncollected.
Residents in the inner-city suburb of Redfern, Surry Hills, Erskineville and Strawberry Hills will be affected, with the council warning of delays of up to 48 hours.
The industrial action will also affect some commercial contracts in Wollongong, and for the first time, waste workers in five Victorian local councils will also strike for 24 hours as part of a “last resort” to improve worker rights.
TWU NSW/Qld secretary Richard Olsen accused waste management company Cleanaway of reducing overtime entitlements and extending work hours that would effectively leave employees worse off by “thousands” of dollars.
He said staffing levels had reduced by about 30 per cent due to staffing conditions.
The City of Sydney asked residents to place their bins out as normal and advised them to report uncollected rubbish after two days.
The latest round of strikes comes after inner-city streets were plagued with overflowing bins and piles of rubbish in April.
“We apologise for any inconvenience while we work with our waste contractor to minimise disruption for you,” the council said.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore continued to face mounting pressure to intervene in negotiations between the TWU and Cleanaway, which the council contracts its rubbish collection to.
Mr Olsen said Ms Moore declined to meet with the TWU directly, instead putting forward a meeting with a department worker.
However, the TWU said it would only meet with Ms Moore herself and a failure to intervene was “endorsement of Cleanaway’s behaviour”.
“She is the head of council. She is the economic employer in this instance. She holds the purse strings,” Mr Olsen said.
“She can direct Cleanaway, their contractor, to perform any duty and to make any changes in contract if she wishes.”
A City of Sydney spokesperson said the council supported the rights of workers to strike, however maintained it was a matter between “Cleanaway management, their staff, and their union”.
“Cleanaway is responsible for its own industrial relations under the contract,” they said.
“Under the contract with Cleanaway, it is not appropriate for any councillors to meet with the Transport Workers Union or Cleanaway workers about the dispute.
“The City will work to minimise the impact on residents and ensure waste is collected as quickly as possible.”
Mr Olsen also warned that the problem “will not go away”; however, he said it wasn’t the TWU’s intent to repeat industrial action in the next six months.
“Our intent is that we want our people to have a decent agreement, we want them to earn a decent wage and work safely and come home every night after every shift,” he said.
Mr Olsen also said there was potential for NSW’s Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig to intervene and “bring to bear on council” and “facilitate a decent outcome for these workers”.
However Mr Hoenig said it was a matter for the parties involved.
“Negotiating a fair outcome is in the best interests of both workers their employers and the residents of the council area,” he said.
A Cleanaway spokesperson said employees had been presented with a “very competitive remuneration and condition offer” that supported a “dynamic and flexible work model”.
“The company notes that to date, a large number of Cleanaway sites have decided to vote in favour of workplace conditions of just that kind,” they said.
“Cleanaway services clients across a seven-day-a-week industry and its agreements reflect the needs of both workers and requirements to service clients.
“The company knows that some employees do not want the agreement to include the possibility that working hours could vary. This is their right and varying work hours would not happen without consultation.”