Socialist Worker

Council workers walk out to defend Michael Gavan

by Charlie Kimber
Issue No. 2082

Striking Newham council workers at a rally in defence of their union branch chair on Thursday of last week (Pic: Charlie Kimber)

Striking Newham council workers at a rally in defence of their union branch chair on Thursday of last week (Pic: Charlie Kimber)

Council workers in Newham, east London, struck on Thursday of last week in defence of their sacked Unison union branch chair Michael Gavan.

More people struck this time than during the last strike over the same issue in October. The official strikers are in Unison, but Unite (T&G section) members also joined the action at some workplaces.

At the dust depot some non-union members backed the strike after joining the union on the picket line. Numbers of agency workers also took part.

Some schools which last time had not taken action also joined the strike this time.

There is deep anger across the workforce that Michael has been sacked. He is rightly celebrated as someone who has worked tirelessly to improve the working lives of people in Newham.


Michael was sacked for organising an “unauthorised mass meeting” of refuse and cleansing workers and on a second charge of representing the members and not the council.

His real offence is to be an effective trade unionist and a thorn in the side of the right-wing New Labour council that runs the borough.

The real reason for his dismissal is to attack Unison and its campaign against Newham council’s proposals to privatise hundreds of jobs in street cleansing, refuse, school meals and school cleaning.

In addition the union has challenged the council’s controversial plans to move over 2,500 employees to a building fraught with problems in the middle of the hard-to-reach Royal Docks area of the borough.

A strikers’ rally heard several testimonies from Newham council workers who said they would have been sacked without Michael’s assistance.

There was applause for Unison regional official Vicky Easton when she pledged the union’s full backing for the campaign to win Michael’s job back.

But some of the loudest applause was for speakers who demanded that the union should use its Labour Link to cease payments to the party while it was sacking trade unionists.

Michael’s campaign was highlighted at a public meeting in the House of Commons held on Tuesday of last week and organised by John McDonnell, the left wing Labour MP.

As well as Michael’s case, the meeting helped build solidarity for Karen Reissmann, the victimised Manchester NHS activist (see » ‘Our fight for NHS is far from over’) and the care workers at Fremantle Trust in north London, who have been forced onto new contracts with worse wages and conditions.

Phone in messages of support to Newham Unison on 020 8555 9351 or by email at newham‑[email protected]

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Article information

Mon 17 Dec 2007, 17:16 GMT
Issue No. 2082
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