Street cleaners and grave digger strike postponed

Members of the Unite union on the steps of City Hall in Norwich.

Members of the Unite union on the steps of City Hall in Norwich. - Credit: Unite

A strike of Norwich’s Street cleaners, park staff and grave diggers has been suspended - for one day. 

Low paid workers at the newly-formed Norwich City Services Ltd (NCSL) voted to take industrial action on Wednesday, amid a dispute over pay and conditions. 

Currently, the strike is planned to go ahead from Thursday, May 27 to Wednesday, June 2. 

Adam Oakes of Unite 

Adam Oakes of Unite - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Some 400 workers, previously employed by Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse, transferred to an arms-length company called Norwich City Services Ltd (NCSL), run by the Labour-controlled city council late last month. 

Members of two unions – Unite and Unison – voted to strike, demanding better pay, sick leave and to get the same annual leave as city council workers. 

In negotiations with the two unions, NCSL has offered improved terms, and members will be asked if they accept.

Jonathan Dunning, Unison’s Norfolk branch secretary, said: “The strike on Wednesday is suspended, the other seven days could still go ahead but it will depend on the results of the ballot. 

“If the members vote yes to accept the terms, then it is all over and the strike will be called off.” 

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If the strike goes ahead, Mr Dunning said Norwich resident could see a significant impact.

“The household collection won't be affected but the cleaning of the streets will be,” he said. 

Jonathan Dunning from Unison, one of the organisers of the protest

Jonathan Dunning from Unison, one of the organisers of the protest - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

“That’s quite significant because our members [are the people who] have to clean up after all the depravity on Prince of Wales Road, they have to clean up drug needles, carry out safety checks on children’s park equipment, and dig the graves. 

“It will have a big impact on the city. 

““We regret any kind of impact on the public but sometimes the fight for equality takes supremacy over the disruption to services.”

Ahead of the planned strike, protesters demonstrated outside the city council’s annual meeting on Monday. 

A spokesperson for Norwich City Council said:  “The company has put forward a number of improved pay offers and better terms and conditions to the new workforce, and has also made commitments to offer further improvements in future years, tied to the success of the company."

Included in the latest offer are a 3pc pay rise and enhancements in terms and conditions, the spokesperson said.

They added: “We will be liaising with the unions following the outcome of the ballot to determine our next steps.”