Socialist Worker

Bin privatisation means council cuts and chaos

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2234

Rubbish collection ground to a halt in parts of Britain in recent weeks because of the snow.

In Birmingham, ongoing industrial action by bin workers means the mounds are growing even further.

The Tories are trying to blame Labour councils and “lazy” workers for the chaos. They say that they support a return to weekly, instead of fortnightly. collections.

Restoring weekly collections across England would cost £121 million—something the government claims it has no money to fund. It was the Tories who opened the door to the privatisation of street cleansing and rubbish collection.

Justin Bowden, the GMB union’s national officer for contractors, told Socialist Worker, “The government say they want weekly collections, but how can that be reconciled with the cuts they are making?

“They can’t have their cake and eat it. Refuse services cost money. The costs are basic—wages and the trucks.

Compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) was introduced by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s to force councils to outsource or privatise services.

Everything was up for sale from NHS cleaning and catering, to road maintenance to refuse.

Justin added that the plan was based on cost and profit, not providing a service: “Companies were competing for contracts—the lowest bidder won.

“Making a profit means slashing the service and worsening workers’ terms and conditions. You get what you pay for—there is very little left to cut. Any profit should be used to improve services, not line someone’s pockets.”

Tupe rules protect the terms and conditions of workers transferring under CCT, but these are undermined as existing workers leave and new ones are started on worse terms and conditions.

And in the last four years, councils have used single status agreements—intended to equalise pay between men and women—to drive bin workers pay down even further.

Councils were always able to make the decision about the frequency of rubbish collections. “With the cuts, collections will become less frequent, not more frequent,” said Justin.

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Article information

Tue 11 Jan 2011, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2234
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