Hammersmith & Fulham Bin Men in Holiday Entitlement Row

Serco refusing to allow leave missed during pandemic to be rolled over

Binmen were asked to work through the pandemic and not take annual leave
Binmen were asked to work through the pandemic and not take annual leave

Hammersmith and Fulham’s 150 bin men are in an industrial dispute over their annual leave, and accuse their employer of breaking government guidance.

As essential workers, many refuse collectors have worked for months on end without taking annual leave, including to make up numbers when their colleagues have fallen sick or had to self-isolate.

This month they learnt from their employer Serco Group Ltd, contracted by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, that only half as many staff will be allowed to take annual leave at any one time.

They were also told they will not be allowed to have any unused annual leave carried over after March 31, and that the coronavirus pandemic will not be considered an “extenuating circumstance”.

This is despite a government directive, issued in March 2020, which allows “up to four weeks of unused leave to be carried into the next two leave years, easing the requirements on business to ensure that workers take [the] statutory amount of annual leave in any one year.”

The Local Democracy Reporting Service was told the refuse collectors were too nervous to speak out, even anonymously.

But a GMB trade union organiser, Keith Williams, said Serco should back down and “let common sense prevail”.

Asked if the workers might go on strike, he said, “We have formally lodged a grievance with Serco, that’s the first step you have to take. I just hope they see sense.”

Serco did not deny the accusations, but a spokesperson said, “In line with government guidance, we are reviewing requests on a case-by-case basis where individuals have been prevented from taking their full leave entitlement due to operational requirements.”

Mr Williams, from Ealing, claimed the company was unwilling to let staff take their holiday because it would require them to fill gaps by spending money on agency staff.

He said, “They [Serco] are saying they have reduced the number of agency staff. But in doing that, they should have realised that’s had an impact on numbers of staff being able to take annual leave at any one time.”

He claims the company has made millions from the Covid Track and Trace contracts so “money shouldn’t be a problem for them”.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

January 27, 2021