Socialist Worker

Refuse workers battle union-busting

Issue No. 1886

THE BATTLE between Hackney refuse workers and the Labour council got more bitter-and important-last week.

The refuse workers and street cleaners have been striking against imposed contracts which mean £3,000 a year pay cuts for some of them. The council has launched a brutal strategy of union-busting in an effort to crush the strike.

"This council is behaving like a bunch of dogs," said Eddie, one of the bin workers. "This is a filthy and back-breaking job that most people wouldn't do for twice the money we get."

Previously the council has run strikebreaking dustcarts out of local authority depots outside the borough. But during the four-day strike that began last week the council used the yard of a private firm, Docklands Waste Disposal, in Hackney Wick.

Early in the morning on strike days workers and their supporters held angry protests outside the depot. The police were sent in to corral the strikers behind barricades and to escort out the dustcarts. The carts are crewed by agency workers who usually work alongside the council workforce and by extra workers brought in by the agency.

The council has broken off talks with the union because of alleged violence during the protests.

It is essential that the dispute is taken up by the union movement more widely and that other workers deliver solidarity.

It will be a disgrace if the main unions involved, the TGWU and Unison, allow this dispute to go down to a 1980s-style defeat just when there is a new mood for action and a new confidence in many workplaces across Britain.

Mass picketing can make the scabbing operation much more difficult. The number of carts going out fell last week as the picketing began to have an effect.

Pickets were cheered on Monday when around 20 supporters arrived bringing collections and messages of support. Around £300 was collected at the launch of Respect. There were other collections totalling £200 from Homerton Hospital, local schools, a tenants' association, an Amicus union NEC member and others.

Brian, one of the pickets, told Socialist Worker, "If you're on strike for more than a few days, you see people's heads going down as it gets to pay day. But when supporters start bringing money they've collected it raises people's heads up again. We feel we can make the bosses crack before we do."

The unions must tell every worker in the area about this scandalous assault by the Labour council.

Call more hard-hitting strikes and ask every local trade unionist to join mass pickets.

Tour local workplaces, especially those with Unison and TGWU members, to call for solidarity collections and physical support for the mass picketing.

Call on every council worker to support the dispute financially and support the pickets.


Liverpool

OVER 200 childcare social workers in Liverpool City Council are balloting for industrial action.

The issues are lack of staffing, excessive workloads, lack of resources, and bullying and intimidation, which in turn are driving high levels of stress and very high turnover of staff.

Union members in both Unison and Apex/GMB, who are organising a joint ballot, are also angry at management, who suspended two workers last year and derecognised a popular Unison senior steward.

  • Send messages of support to Unison Liverpool City Branch, Room G01-G05, Cotton Exchange Building, Bixteth Street, Liverpool.


    Newham

    UNISON MEMBERS working for Newham council in east London were to begin balloting on strikes to defend their union this week.

    The council had threatened to evict the union from its office and cut the number of full time branch officers. But, having been given notice of the ballot, the council asked to meet regional union officials.

    On Tuesday, as Socialist Worker went to press, the council seemed ready to make an offer to resolve the dispute.

    Newham Unison branch secretary Michael Gavan told Socialist Worker, "We will see if the offer meets our demands. If it doesn't we must press ahead with the ballot and the strikes."


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    News
    Sat 31 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1886
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