Thurrock: The place where people deal with their own rubbish

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image captionResidents in Thurrock have been warned they will not have their household waste collected until 18 June at the earliest

People living in the Thurrock area of Essex have been told they will not have their household bins emptied until 18 June because of ongoing strike action. What is the cause of the dispute and how are people there coping?

What is the disagreement about?

image captionProposed changes to the allowances received by Thurrock's waste collectors could see their overall earnings reduced by up to £3,800 Unite says

Refuse collectors who are members of the trade union Unite began strike action in Thurrock on 13 April.

Initially, the strike action meant food and general waste would only be collected until 09:00 BST daily. But from 8 May, no collections have been carried out.

The current dispute stems back to April 2019 when the Conservative-led Thurrock Council and the unions agreed that allowances available to staff would be subject to future review.

That review of benefits and allowances has been carried out and a series of proposed changes are currently being consulted on.

The changes proposed include reducing bank holiday rates from triple to double pay, the loss of extra payments for vehicle inspections and workers having to be more flexible over shifts.

What does Unite say about the changes?

image captionMichelle Cook said she was "sorry for the residents in Thurrock" for the action being taken

"Our members have provided essential services throughout the pandemic," says Michelle Cook, regional manager of Unite.

"The proposals are brutal. They are not asking for more money, they just want to keep the money that they have been earning and they are determined to protect their income."

She says the refuse collectors, who make about £25,000 a year on average, could see their earnings fall by as much as £3,800 under the proposals.

And the council?

image caption"It is a review, nothing is concrete.," says Andrew Jefferies, who sits on Thurrock Council's cabinet

"We are still at the negotiating stage," says Andrew Jefferies, who sits on Thurrock's decision-making body, the cabinet.

"It is a review, nothing is concrete. This is not about making savings it is about modernising working processes."

He says the work of the entire environmental services team during the pandemic was very much appreciated and urged the union to "come back to the table and call off the strike".

Mr Jefferies ruled out the chance of residents getting a refund for waste services not provided.

DIY bin collections

image captionThe Stanford-le-Hope site was very busy with a constant influx of cars arriving in rain before the occupants made the dash to hurl their refuse into the collection vehicle

There are currently seven waste drop-off locations set up by the council where residents can drop off their bagged up waste. On Thursday, the BBC visited a number of them to speak with visitors there.

The Stanford-le-Hope site was very busy with a constant influx of cars arriving in rain before the occupants made the dash to hurl their refuse into the collection vehicle.

One of them, who asked not to be named, said she largely supported the action of the refuse collectors but worried about how those without access to cars would get rid of their waste.

"It has been really busy here," she said. "You should have been here earlier in the week, it was chaos, with waste piled high. It looks like they've managed to deal with that but for how long?"

Another resident said: "Everybody's bins and rubbish is all up the road. It is really unsafe for the elderly people. It is just getting disgusting.

"And we've now got to take the rubbish to the bin lorries themselves. It is not good, it is not good at all."

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