Refuse workers in Brighton suspended their strike action for 21 days as Socialist Worker went to press. The move came after the council appeared to make significant concessions retreating from its plan to cut the wages of the 300 workers.
Rubbish bags had been piled high across Brighton and Hove as refuse workers began seven days of strike action on Monday of this week.
The city’s 300 refuse workers, street sweepers and recycling collectors started a work-to-rule on Thursday of last week and refused to work with defective equipment.
The GMB union has been locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with the council over plans to slash wages of the refuse workers and 500 others by between £2,000 and £8,000 a year each.
The average wage of the 300 staff going on strike is £19,000.
GMB union official Rob Macey said, “We are confident that the public will support our members when they consider how they would react if they themselves were faced with pay cuts of up to £8,000 each through no fault of their own.”
The first day of the strike saw over 50 workers mount a lively picket, totally blockading the entrance to the refuse depot.
Dave Russell, a GMB steward at the depot, said, “The council have known that they were going to have to do something about this for more than 12 years, since 1997.
“It’s the employer’s fault that they’ve underpaid council workers for years. Why should we have to pay for the council’s mistakes?”
Runa, one of many refuse workers on less than £16,000 a year, said, “My pay is going to get cut by about £3,000 a year in one go.
“There are workers here who aren’t going to be able to keep up with their mortgages and could lose their homes if these cuts happen. It’s disgusting.
“If the council wants to cut wages, it can start with the new chief executive of the council who gets £170,000. I’m sure he could cope with losing £8,000 a year, but we can’t.”
Rob Macey, GMB organiser, said, “The support from the public has been phenomenal and clearly shows that the people of Brighton are on the side of this dispute.
Members have been enthused by support from sister trade unions such as the CWU, Unison, the FBU and Unite and also students from the local university.”