Manchester bin drivers are voting on whether to strike after rejecting an "insulting" pay offer of 1.75% from employer Biffa.

The bin strike ballot opened today (29 March), after extensive negotiations with the waste management company failed to deliver a resolution. The drivers are demanding an increase in wages above what union Unite has described as Biffa's "insulting" offer of 1.75%.

Both Unite and GMB argue that Biffa, which posted £26m in pre-tax profits last year, is a private company and so not bound by the local government pay restraint policy which limits pay rises to 1.75%.

The workers - who are members of both GMB and Unite unions – include drivers, loaders and environmental operatives. If the strike goes ahead it will hit thousands of homes across Manchester. The ballot opened today and will close on Tuesday 12 April. A vote in favour of industrial action will see strikes begin later this spring.

Michael Clark, GMB regional organiser, said: “Today, GMB members begin voting on whether Manchester's bin strike will go ahead. The city’s refuse collectors have worked throughout the pandemic, doing a dirty, difficult job keeping the streets clean.

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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Biffa has to get real. It can easily afford to offer our members a decent pay rise but instead is proposing an insulting pay cut. Biffa must think again and put hard-pressed workers before boardroom greed.

“Our members at Biffa will be receiving Unite’s full support until this dispute is resolved and a fair offer is made to the workers.”

Biffa is proposing to pay loaders and environmental operatives £10.14 an hour - 64 pence above the new minimum wage rates. The unions argue that the proposed rate of £13.00 an hour for the bin lorry drivers, who are required to hold a HGV licence, is far below standard commercial rates.

Unite regional officer Tanya Sweeney said: “Unite has attempted to resolve this dispute through negotiations but Biffa has refused to improve its offer. Workers have been left with no option but to ballot for industrial action.

“Even now Biffa can avoid strikes and all the disruption they will cause to the general public in Manchester by making an improved pay offer and returning to the negotiating table.”

Biffa has yet to respond to a request for comment.