Socialist Worker

Southampton kicks off indefinite action over pay cuts

by Tom Walker, in Southampton
Issue No. 2253

Refuse workers held mass pickets in Southampton on Monday of this week  (Pic: Smallman )

Refuse workers held mass pickets in Southampton on Monday of this week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Council workers in Southampton launched a campaign of indefinite industrial action this week over pay cuts.

Refuse workers across the city kicked off the action, walking out for five days from Monday.

A different group of council workers will strike each week from now on. The 110 refuse workers, who are in the Unite union, were up first.

That day also saw all 2,400 Unison and Unite members at the council begin indefinite industrial action, including a work-to-rule and overtime ban.

There were around 75 pickets at the bin depot from 5.30am on Monday—the majority of the workforce.

“The council says we’ve got to take a pay cut of 5.5 percent,” Unite steward John Early told Socialist Worker.

“But we fought for our terms and conditions—and we’re not prepared to see them go.”

Inflation means the pay cut they face would be even higher in real terms. And it comes after years of pay freezes.

Another worker, John, told Socialist Worker, “Everything’s gone up but they’re cutting our wages. A lot of the guys are struggling to make ends meet.”

“This Tory council wants to make our members pay for a mess that’s nothing to do with them,” added Unite regional officer Ian Woodland. He warned Tory bosses: “This action is going to escalate.”

Ian explained that the action had been coordinated with Unison and the unions have formed a joint strike committee.

The selective strikes mean each section that walks out will be paid in full for the duration.

When the refuse section returns to work next week, another group of workers will strike for that week.

Solidarity donations are already coming in, and a meeting has been set up for 2 June.

Unison branch secretary Mike Tucker and other Unison members joined the picket line in solidarity. “After this we’re going into town to leaflet workplaces, making sure people know that the action has started,” he said.

Local trade unionists and delegations from Portsmouth Unite and Unison also came to show their solidarity.

The pickets blew horns, waved Unite flags and Unison placards and chanted “Cut my pay? No way!”

“To be honest this isn’t an easy job, but it’s been decently paid,” said refuse worker Steve.

“Luckily for us we’ve got our union. We can put up a fight. Why should we pay? I’ve got two kids—why should they pay?”

Joint Unison and Unite meeting, 2 June, 12.30pm, Above Bar Church, Southampton SO14 7FE. Send donations to: Unison Southampton District Branch, Unison Office, Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7NB. Send messages of support to

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Article information

Tue 24 May 2011, 17:59 BST
Issue No. 2253
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