Strike ballot papers will be distributed among Serco refuse workers in Bexley tomorrow (9 October) as the Unite union gears up for a fight over Covid-19 concerns.

It said local councillors had been urged to jettison proposals to extend Serco’s current contract until 2025 and that the ballot was the latest chapter in what was “a dismal industrial relations regime.”

Unite claimed there was a culture of management bullying at the Thames Road depot in Crayford, south east London, as well as health and safety concerns and an apparent failure to upgrade some workers to agreed pay rates.

Unite regional officer Ruth Hydon said: “Bexley councillors will discuss a highly critical report on missed collections on Thursday and we hope that this will be another nail in the coffin of Serco’s aspirations to continue with the contract until 2025.

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“Serco has tried to blame its failings on our members, but the reality is that the poor service is down to bad management, cost cutting, low morale and low pay which means the company can’t attract drivers to work on the contract.”

Hydon added that Unite was “very concerned” about there being four employees in an HGV – an increase from three - without any consultation.

“When Unite raises health & safety concerns, Serco threatens to discipline workers for not following instructions, rather than taking any responsibility themselves,” she claimed.

In July, Serco avoided strike action in Bexley when workers voted to accept a revised pay deal.

Serco declined to comment.