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Refuse workers Sheffield victory [print version]

The people of Sheffield know the value of refuse workers, even if Veolia doesn’t. Photo Tim Dennell via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Refuse collection workers in Sheffield have won a victory over pay against a backdrop of dramatically increased inflation. The staff are employed by Veolia, which has a lucrative waste disposal contract with Sheffield City Council – and many others.

The GMB union was in negotiations with Veolia for months before reaching an impasse, the company refusing to make a pay offer that matched inflation despite the large profits it is making.

Veolia is a French-based corporation with interests across the world and diverse activities in Britain. In May CEO Antoine Frérot predicted, “2021 will be a very good year in terms of growth and profits”. The Sheffield refuse workers took note: 80 per cent of the GMB members then voted for industrial action.

Veolia’s initial response to short four-hour strikes was to spend large amounts of money bringing in agency staff to undermine the industrial action – proving that money was no object for the company.

GMB members reacted angrily, escalating the dispute to continuous strike action from 22 November. Veolia caved in shortly before the all-out strike began, offering a new improved two-year deal which the workers accepted.

• A longer version of this article is online at Sheffield refuse workers pay victory