A multinational corporation broke the law to try and undermine a strike against poverty pay last week. Cleanaway, part of the giant Brambles corporation, faced a week-long strike by 150 bin workers demanding an increased London weighting allowance. The workers get a basic pay of just £200 a week.
Cleanaway has the refuse contract with the New Labour council in Tower Hamlets, east London. The firm tried to undermine the strike by using strikebreakers from employment agencies. This is illegal - and Cleanaway must have known it. Employment agencies are banned under a 1973 act from supplying workers 'as direct replacement for employees who are in industrial dispute'.
The workers' TGWU union forced the agencies to withdraw the strikebreakers. Cleanaway then turned up at the local job centre with leaflets offering unemployed people jobs - at double the hourly rate they paid the striking workers. The strikers went to the dole office. Workers in the PCS union there took up the issue and the leaflets were removed.
But all Cleanaway's grubby efforts came to nothing. The strike was solid, and rubbish piled up across the borough. Workers are now keeping up an overtime ban to win decent pay. Solidarity helped beat the strikebreaking, and solidarity can beat privateers like Cleanaway and the councils who back them.
As well as local civil servants, council workers, teachers, local tube workers and others all visited the bin workers' picket lines last week. 'We all have the same problems, we should all be out together,' said one striker.