STRIKING binmen have spoken out over pay disparity, bullying claims, and health and safety disputes as they took action in Oldbury.

More than 80 binmen were on the picket line at Sandwell Council's tip in Shidas Lane today (Tuesday).

The strike, which began at 5.30am and ended at noon, is aimed at Serco, a private company which manages public service contracts.

GMB Union argues that various different contracts, or a “contract within a contract” have been used by Serco to employ its binmen, with workers complaining they are on different pay packages.

The union also argues there is a culture of “bullying and harassment” with binmen claiming they have had “no support” from Sandwell Council in resolving the dispute.

One binman, who did not wished to be named, said: “I have been working on overtime for 40 hours this month just so that I can pay my bills. How is that fair?

“I know the contracts for bin collections across councils here in the West Midlands fluctuates. It can be a £4,000 to £6,000 a year difference.”

Another binman, also wishing to remain anonymous, said: “I am currently employed on a £20,000 per year salary. My friend, another binman, is on £24,000. I have been employed on the same contract for two and a half years with no pay increase.

“A lot of guys here do not have statutory sick pay. [Serco] has also started to employ ‘pay-as-you-go’ binmen, who only get paid for the hours they do. If you only do two hours of work, you get paid two hours. That is outrageous.”

Gill Ogilevie, senior organiser for GMB Sandwell branch, said: “There has been barely any support from Sandwell council. Quite the opposite actually. It’s almost as if they want to brush it under the carpet.”

Ms Ogilevie claims there were “meaningful talks” between both parties until the “last minute”, where communications broke down.

GMB Union say a total of 60,000 households will be affected across the four days of strike action. The timing of the strike coincides with local waste collection across the borough.

The council has suspended garden waste collections to allow remaining staff to focus on domestic waste and recycling bins.

Strikes will also take place on the 7th, 14th, and 21st September.

Cllr Rizwan Jalil, Lab, Oldbury ward, has been attending discussions with GMB and the strikers.

He said: “The strike today has been positive, with a lot of the workforce out.  It is unfortunate that this dispute is a result of national government policy outsourcing various parts of our public service. We should not let this happen.

He added: “I hope that this strike can get resolved quickly and efficiently for all of the borough, our workers, and our residents.”

Iain Stockdale-Smith, senior contract manager for Serco, said: “We have had many positive meetings with the GMB Union over the last few months and significant progress has been made on the issues raised."

He added: “During official industrial action, the law prevents us from bringing in additional staff to replace those on strike, but we want to assure residents we will try to keep any disruption to a minimum and our teams will be working hard behind the scenes to organise the resources we have in the most effective way.”

Cllr Maria Crompton, Sandwell Council deputy leader, said: “We will be working hard to ensure that any disruption is kept to an absolute minimum for our residents and we hope that Serco is able to work with its employees and the trade unions to resolve the ongoing dispute without any further disruption to residents.”