Around 40 dustcarts and other vehicles were gathered outside Waltham Forest town hall in east London today (Thursday) as workers held an unofficial protest over the effects of a single status deal.
The protesters were joined by local Respect supporter and candidate Carole Vincent, who was very warmly received.
“We here because we are not going to let the council get away with cutting our wages by up to £160 a week”, one Unite (T&G section) union member told Socialist Worker. “We know that this deal is supposed to deliver equal pay, and we fully support that fight, but it shouldn't come at the expense of other workers.”
As the workers, members of the T&G and GMB unions, gathered on the town hall steps, they chanted “Fair pay for all” and cheered those who called for a strike over the issue.
T&G steward Tommy Anderson told Socialist Worker, “People are very angry that their wages and conditions are under threat and yet the people at the top of the council are guaranteed not to face any cuts until 2015. It is a disgrace that people who do such a hard job – and are not richly rewarded at the moment – are now being asked to carry the can for years of low pay for others.
“Dust cart drivers, loaders, street cleansing workers and others are near the bottom of the pile. It doesn’t help to be told that they are going to be lowered to the poverty wages that are earned by cooks in schools. Everyone should be levelled up to a decent wage.”
One GMB member who had been on the dust for 30 years told Socialist Worker, “This job will not give enough money to survive if these cuts go through, people will lose their homes. We were privatised last year and now there are these new attacks. This protest has been for a few hours, next time we should be out for days, and I hope the unions move quickly to organise that.
“Gordon Brown says we are going to get less than 2 percent for there years. That’s bad enough. But now we’re going to lose £40 a week or more anyway!”
Dave Knight, the Waltham Forest Unison branch secretary told the protesters, “We have fought to get equal pay for women, but we do not want people like you to pay for that. You should be regarded so that you get the full equivalent of your present pay plus bonuses.
“I pledge the solidarity of Unison in the fight to get equal pay without pay cuts – that’s what we’ll be taking into the negotiations.”
Carole Vincent is standing in a local council by-election. She was welcomed to the protest and was at the heart of it throughout.
Some of the protesters recognised her from her appearance on Big Brother, but many others did so from her decades of campaigning work in the area. She has been involved in an extraordinary number of fights for decent resources for young people, for good schools and housing, for equality and against racism.
Carole told Socialist Worker, “It is a disgrace that people who do the dirty jobs in this borough are facing such pay cuts. These are the people who keep services going, and they are going to lose thousands of pounds a year. Equal pay is crucial, but why should these workers be penalised to achieve it?
“In the by-election on 14 February this is exactly the sort of issue I will be highlighting, and I’m proud to stand with these workers.”