Socialist Worker

Bin workers occupation rocks Brighton council

by Alan Kenny and Phil Mellows
Issue No. 2353

Marching to confront council bosses

Marching to confront council bosses (Pic: Alan Kenny)


Over 300 refuse workers in Brighton called a strike ballot last Friday after a two-day unofficalwalkout. They had occupied their canteen at the Hollingdean Road depot from Wednesday to Friday, then began a work to rule.

The workers are employed by contracter Cityclean who are members of the GMB union. They were protesting against plans by Green Party-led Brighton & Hove Council to introduce a new system of allowances.

These mean that many workers will face a £4,000-a-year pay cut. Those refusing the new deal have been threatened with the sack.

The workers demanded the council review its plans.

Local Green Party MP Caroline Lucas  agreed. She came to support the workers. She said a minority of Greens on the council were responsible for imposing the cuts. 

The council quickly saw the effect of the wildcat strike as rubbish went uncollected for two days.

The workers said they would continue their action until council leader Jason Kitcat agreed to meet them.

Around 250 strikers marched from Churchill Square to Brighton Town Hall on Friday, chanting “Kitcat out!” When he finally came out to address them he could not be heard for chanting and booing.

The council has already retreated by extending the consultation period by a further 90 days. This means that the council is unable to implement the cuts by its planned date of  October. 

Unison members at the council have also rejected the plans. 

The strike received wide backing from other workers in Brighton. The local trades council pledged its full support and offered to help stop scabbing by mobilising a blockade of the depot. PCS members at the JobCentre walked out during lunchtime in solidarity with the strikers. 

They rallied outside the depot to cheer a drive-by of some 20 refuse lorries.

At the final mass meeting on Friday workers in the GMB voted unanimously to return to work and begin preparations for a strike ballot. The council has made no further offer to the workers and the GMB is set to issue bosses with a formal notice of the ballot this week.

The council took back the running of the refuse service a few years ago after a strike forced a private contractor out. 

 


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Tue 14 May 2013, 18:13 BST
Issue No. 2353
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