Rotting rubbish was piled high in streets across the East End on Monday as waste collection workers began a second week of strikes over pay.
At tourist hotspot Brick Lane, which is famous for its Indian restaurants and bagel shops, residents and business owners described a “Mount Everest” of waste following seven days of missed collections.
Waste service workers and street cleaners in Tower Hamlets began a two-week walk out over pay on September 18.
Beigel Shop manager Ellis Zelum told the Standard the business has spent an extra £400 a week to have its rubbish collected each day during the strike. Staff also had to make a van trip to a dump that cost the business £150.
”We had to dump a load yesterday because our yard was full of it and we don’t want to attract mice or rats,” he said on Monday.
“It’s been pretty bad especially with customers coming past, the smell of rubbish, they don’t want to eat.”
AM 2 PM convenience store employee Ali Arza told the Standard the rubbish is creating a “bad impression” for tourists visting the area, adding that he was worried about the risk of diseases spreading.
He said rubbish is normally collected twice a day, but now the waste is pungent.
“It’s not a nice experience. Yesterday was too busy, of course loads of people came because it was the Sunday market.”
Apprentice star Lord Alan Sugar hit out at the mess in Bethnal Green on Monday.
“I am riding through Bethnal Green Road my old Manor,” he posted on X. “I am shocked at the stock pile of garbage that is all over the pavements. It is not days of stuff it looks like weeks.”
One restaurant worker from Brick Lane told the Standard: “It’s ridiculous. Who wants to eat when you have to look at a mountain of rubbish? The smell is awful and it is going to attract pests. Something needs to be done.”
Unite the Union said more than 200 workers had rejected a national flat rate pay rise of £1,925 because it is below inflation and “amounts to real terms pay cut”.
Tower Hamlets council said private waste company, Bywaters, began clearing some of the build-up of rubbish on Saturday and would be prioritising high rise buildings, markets, commercial areas and main highways.
The borough’s mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “We value our frontline staff and know how hard they work. This strike is a national pay dispute and not limited to local issues.
“We apologise to our residents and businesses and want to assure them we are doing our best to maintain services throughout.”
Leader of the Tower Hamlets Labour Sirajul Islam said: “We are 11 months into Lutfur Rahman’s waste emergency – one created by a service struggling with low morale, short staffing, and poor working conditions.
“We have a mayor who is more than happy to increase his own personal office costs by £5m but can’t find the money to for some of our lowest paid workers.”
A strike by refuse workers in neighbouring Newham, which was due to start today, was called off after the council came to a deal with Unite. It included the town hall reviewing night shift payments and offering full time employment to agency staff.
Almost 250 housing repair workers at Haringey and Southwark councils striked on Monday in the first of a series of 24-hour walkouts over pay.