Tower Hamlets: Rubbish piles up in east London as refuse workers' strike enters second week

Rotting rubbish is piling up on east London streets as a strike by refuse workers enters its second week.

Thousands of bin bags, some piled six feet high, litter parts of the capital after 200 members of the Unite union walked out last Monday (18 September) in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Locals have reported seeing rats swarming over the piles of rubbish in parts of Shoreditch, the Evening Standard said, amid complaints over the stench.

The strike was originally scheduled to last a fortnight, but, when a deal could not be struck, it was extended to 15 October.

The union said the council, which told the BBC it was "disappointed" by the strike, had made another offer, which would be voted on by members.

If accepted by members, work would resume on Wednesday.

Two hundred refuse collection and street cleaning workers have joined the action, Unite told the BBC.

The union said workers rejected a national flat-rate pay rise of £1,925 because it is below inflation and equivalent to a 'real terms pay cut', the Metro said.

Paul Scully, the Minister for London, told the Evening Standard residents and visitors alike "will be appalled and put off by the sight of rubbish piling up on the streets".

"The unions and councils need to stay in the room together until a fair agreement is sorted," he said.

"This isn't fair on people who pay their council tax and local businesses whose customers will start to go elsewhere."

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Many people have expressed their dismay at the situation on X, formerly known as Twitter.

One person, quoted by the Metro, said: "Cycled through today: Brick Lane and environs are a very real health hazard.

"The stench is overpowering and the pavements are often impassable because of the enormous mounds of decaying rubbish and fly-tipped junk."

Rubbish is being cleared from the worst-hit areas after Tower Hamlets Borough Council employed a private firm to restart collections.