Socialist Worker

Birmingham bin workers show their power

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2234

Birmingham is becoming a festering trashheap as industrial action and snow has ground refuse collection to a near halt.

Bin workers are now working to rule—and plan two half-day strikes on Thursday and Friday of this week—against pay cuts of up to £4,000.

The workers, in the GMB, Unite, Unison and Ucatt unions, struck on 20 December. On 21 December they walked out unofficially after management suspended two workers.

They are at the sharp end of a series of attacks by the council on its workforce.

Now the council has issued a letter saying that it will cut January pay by 20 percent because workers did not collect enough rubbish over the holiday period—despite appalling weather conditions.

“People are livid,” Roger Jenkins, a GMB union organiser in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker.

“The council has employed 200 strike-breakers—but they aren’t trained.

“The press is full of stories saying the council will privatise the service if we don’t end the industrial action.”

Paul Langley, a GMB rep in Birmingham, told Socialist Worker, “The council approached Sandwell and Dudley council and Birmingham Parks asking them to do our work.

“But workers told them to stuff it.

“People understand it’s us first and them next.

“I get up at 4am, walk the streets and lift tons of rubbish in the freezing cold, snow and rain. The council wants us to do the same job but for less money and under worse conditions.”

Talks with management were continuing as Socialist Worker went to press. But workers remain determined.

“Everyone is fully behind the strike and we’ve had fantastic support,” Paul told Socialist Worker.

“Management hoped we would blame women council workers who have won their equal pay claim. But we aren’t—we are all in the same boat.”

It is vital that the strike this week goes ahead. Further strikes can win—and show other workers that they can too.

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Article information

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