BIN WORKERS and street sweepers in Hackney, east London, were set to strike this week and next week in a continuation of a bitter battle with their New Labour bosses.
It is an important struggle about dignity and respect in the workplace as well as about the council’s outrageous anti-union assaults.
One refuse worker told Socialist Worker, “We began a battle against new contracts in January. The council pushed through changes in our shift times, cut wages and brought in a bonus scheme.
“It was a very angry dispute because the council brought in scab agencies to do our work and then disciplined activists for alleged offences on the picket line.
“Some of those suspensions have still not been lifted. I believe that these men are being ‘held hostage’ in order to ensure the workforce’s compliance with the new regulations.
“There is lots of bitterness over the pay scheme. If you’re off sick then you can lose £30 a week off the bonus. That is outrageous enough in any job. But it’s particularly hard in the sort of work we do, which is outdoors in all weathers and often dealing with dirty and contaminated materials.
“Is the council really saying that if you get some disease from a rotten bag of refuse that you have to come into work whatever your condition?
“I don’t think our wages should be dependent on bonuses anyway because there are too many penalty clauses. But this is going way too far.
“We have to strike to show that we’re not face down in the mud and can still fight.”
The workers are members of the TGWU and Unison unions. They were due to strike on Thursday and Friday of this week and Monday and Tuesday next week.
Jules Pipe, the Labour mayor of Hackney, has arrogantly declared that the strike is “holding up improvements” but will have “no effect”.
Pipe, who grabs an “allowance” of £1,500 a week, is blaming bin workers for problems in a service which Labour privatised, then was forced to bring back in-house, and now has suffered cut after cut.
The strikers need the full backing of their union leaders and the wider council workforce.
During the last round of strikes the council used agency workers to keep the bins going. Union leaders should call for collections, delegations to the picket lines and mass pickets to stop any scabbing.
STREET CLEANERS who are employed by Caerphilly council in Wales have voted overwhelmingly for industrial action up to and including all-out strike action.
The dispute centres around bonus payments alongside other grievances. The GMB union, which represents the workers, is waiting for a response from the recently elected Labour council.