Socialist Worker

Barking and Dagenham refuse strike gains support

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2452

Refuse workers picketing

Refuse workers picketing (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Refuse lorry drivers in Barking and Dagenham, east London, were continuing an eight-day strike as Socialist Worker went to press.

The action by GMB union members began on Friday of last week—and it is going strong. 

Workers in the Unison and Unite unions refused to cross strikers’ picket lines at the Pondfield depot on Tuesday of this week.

Bosses had moved lorries there in an attempt to run a reduced service with Unison and Unite members. But the GMB moved pickets there. And workers refused to drive out of the depot. One worker said, “Nothing can go in and nothing can go out.”

Strikers are fighting bosses’ attempts to slash their pay by £1,000 a year. They have also raised serious health and safety concerns about attempts to cut the “pre start” time from 30 to 15 minutes.

This is when drivers carry out health and safety checks on their lorries. Striker Jacob explained to Socialist Worker, “You can’t do a proper health and safety check in 15 minutes. If something were to go wrong, the responsibility would come down on us.”

Workers previously struck between 21 and 22 March and 7 and 8 April. The latest strike went ahead after bosses refused to negotiate in talks at the government Acas conciliation service.

Significantly

The GMB put in a claim of £5,000 compensation against the bosses’ proposed £300 lump sum. Bosses came back with a £400 “goodwill” gesture. The Unison and Unite unions, which are significantly smaller in the workplace, have accepted the shoddy offer. 

Striker Peter told Socialist Worker, “We feel totally insulted by the bosses’ offer.” 

Another striker added, “My workload is always going up. ‘Do more, do more’ is all we hear from management and we’re supposed to take a £1,000 pay cut?”

Workers are confident that they can force management to back down. Jeffrey told Socialist Worker, “The rubbish is going to be building up and building up just like in 1979. 

“They will have to negotiate with us.” 

Bosses have increased security since the dispute began. They have refused workers access to the depot’s union offices to use the toilet and kitchen facilities.

Jeffrey said, “There’s talk of them taking £2,000 off us now. This is all to put us off—but I’ll never cross a picket line. “We have to see it through to the end.” 

More strikes were expected to  take place next week. Every trade unionist needs to build solidarity for the strikers. 

Workers’ names have been changed. Send messages of support to gmb@gmbbarkingb10.org.uk

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