Socialist Worker

Escalate action to win in Southampton

by Tom Walker
Issue No. 2261

Strikers booed and heckled the Tories in Southampton last week  (Pic: Smallman )

Strikers booed and heckled the Tories in Southampton last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of workers at Southampton council will start another wave of strikes on Monday of next week.

Street cleansing, parking and toll collection workers across the city will walk out on strike for seven days.

Last week the striking workers gave their Tory boss Royston Smith a rough ride as they lobbied a council meeting.

Their campaign of strikes is entering its third month. Up to 1,000 workers marched and rallied outside the council’s civic centre in a week that saw more than 700 strike against pay cuts.

Then hundreds of the Unite and Unison union members streamed into the council meeting.

As councillors walked in, the workers started a slow hand clap that swelled into a wave of foot-stomping.

Then the stomping gave way to a roar of the chant that has become the favourite of the strikers: “No ifs, no buts, you can stick your Tory cuts.”

When they were told to “all rise” for the mayor, the workers all stayed seated.

The meeting was held in the city’s Guildhall, with the councillors on a raised stage, lending the proceedings a certain spirit of pantomime.

Tory councillors were booed to the rafters, and there were shouts of “lies!”

Street cleansing worker Stuart Lodwidge said, “I’ve never seen people so angry. We can’t afford to lose what they’re cutting from our pay.”


When Royston Smith started speaking, his words were drowned out by jeering that got louder and louder.

At one point he could be heard saying, “One of us is not telling the truth,” only for workers to bellow back, “It’s you!”

“Just listen, will you?” snapped the Tory mayor, intervening. “It’s difficult for him to speak while you lot are shouting.”

At that point workers decided they’d had enough, and noisily walked out together.

Refuse worker Simon Cotton called Smith’s excuses “a load of rubbish”.

“He’s attacking everyone at the council,” he said. “This is our lives. And if one gets hurt, we all get hurt.”

The council forced its

5 percent pay cuts through on Monday of last week.

Unions advised workers to sign new contracts under

protest to avoid the sack.

But union leaders promised this was not be the end of the fight. They must be held to this. Southampton is a crucial fight. The unions should launch a national appeal for solidarity.

A dramatic escalation of the action that harnesses the sheer anger workers showed last week is the way to win.

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Article information

Tue 19 Jul 2011, 17:25 BST
Issue No. 2261
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