Socialist Worker

Sheffield recycling strikers are going all out to win

by Dean Wragg and Mark Bailey, Sheffield recycling strikers, and Bea Kay, Sheffield GMB steward
Issue No. 2309

GMB members in Sheffield protesting against Jack Scott, the councillor in charge of environmental services

GMB members in Sheffield protesting against Jack Scott, the councillor in charge of environmental services

Some 35 GMB union members from Sheffield Recycling Centres began an all-out strike last Saturday.

The workers are fighting against cuts to opening hours, the loss of five jobs and reduced pay for remaining workers.

They have already taken 21 days of intermittent strikes. Now they have escalated.

Sheffield council, private firm Veolia and charity Sova Recycling have refused to meet to discuss strikers’ demands.

Management has also refused to meet at the conciliation service Acas to discuss the dispute.

Strikers know that money from recycling at the five sites in the city could easily cover the costs of running the service without making cuts.

And there is enough for workers, who are currently paid the minimum wage, to get decent hourly pay.

Workers are also baffled as to why, if money is so short, it takes three tiers of management to run this service. Management has not been threatened with cuts.

Veolia gets £941,000 from the council for recycling and gives Sova £600,000 to run the service.

The proposed cuts will see opening hours on four sites reduced to weekends only for the public. They would leave one site open all week for companies only.

This means that workers will only be paid for 22 hours a week between October and March.

Opening the Blackstock Road site for companies only will allow Sova to use publicly funded premises to compete with other private sector trade disposal sites.

Workers are concerned that this could lead to more job cuts.

The site that is to become solely for business use is the only one with level access.

So the proposal will deprive disabled and some older people from using the recycling sites.

Management at Sova has also refused to pay for washing time or for training for handling asbestos and other important health and safety issues.

This comes alongside other environmentally damaging changes introduced by Veolia.

These include charging for emptying garden waste bins and a proposal to move to fortnightly bin collections.

It’s important to note that Sova Recycling is part of the Sova charity.

They have threatened to use volunteers for the charity to work during the strike.

It is important that this dispute gets widespread support.

If you are in Sheffield, visit the picket lines at the recycling centres and show your support.

Send messages of support, workplace collections and trade union donations made payable to GMB, c/o Pete Davies, GMB Office, 188–192 Norfolk St, S1 1SY

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Article information

Tue 26 Jun 2012, 17:32 BST
Issue No. 2309
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