Socialist Worker

Picket line news

Issue No. 1810


I'm a road sweeper employed by an agency, and working at Newham council in east London. There are 120 of us, most on £4.80 an hour. We were told we had to go into work at the central depot at 10am. We normally start work at 7.30am.

They changed the time because they hoped pickets would have gone. I'm in the union-many agency workers weren't. We went down to the gates and talked to agency workers.

We had a big group outside at 10.10am. In the end I think over 110 of the agency workers didn't work. Lots joined the union too. People feel really proud. We proved we will back the full time workers even though us agency workers won't benefit directly from their pay claim. It has opened the eyes of a lot of the full time staff.

They have said that if any of us are victimised they'll walk out. What a day it has been! I was expecting to have to go to work. Instead I've been out and I ended up speaking at two rallies.
MICK SAXBY, agency worker and Unison member, Newham


There have been inspiring stories across Sheffield. At Fir Vale School, a school which was subject to a Private Finance Initiative scheme, you had three or four classroom assistants on the picket line. About 20 school students joined them and persuaded enough other students not to cross the picket line that the school shut. Some 800 strikers rallied in the city centre.

You had a feeling people were learning to organise themselves. As well as union speakers we had someone from Defend Council Housing and a speaker from the Stop the War Coalition.
BEA KAY, Unison member, Sheffield council


We were overwhelmed by the public support in Swansea. So many people were saying it was the first time they had been on strike.

They were so determined to strike at one manual depot they started their picket line at midnight as the strike day began! People feel the time has come to have a fight-that it's right to strike.
NIMI TRIVEDI, Unison member, Swansea council


One thing that stood out was our lunchtime rally. The bins are privatised, but they are unionised in the GMB. Over 30 dustcarts turned up during the rally. They drove in convoy, really slowly, up and down Upper Street, with their lights on and sirens going. It was a moving show of solidarity.
ZOYA ECONOMOU, Unison member, Islington council


This has put class struggle at the top of the agenda in Bath and North East Somerset. I work in a small place called Midsomer Norton. We were completely shut down.

The main council building was shut because the worker responsible for opening it joined the union and struck. But we had a picket anyway. The support from the public was fantastic. It was the same picture in places like Radstock and Keynsham-not places people think of as centres of militancy.

Bath was in chaos because the park and rides struck. The Roman Baths were picketed out, and some tourists applauded the strikers. They often use students to help run tourist facilities in Bath, and some of them joined the union so they could strike.

Many of the workers were young-many were striking for the first time and were well up for it.
RICHARD GURNEY, Bath and North East Somerset council


The strike was solid, especially among the manual workers. Manual craft workers in the councils are not part of the same pay deal. But they respected our picket lines.

The strike has been the best thing ever in my experience for recruiting people to the unions. People have been flooding in. There is bitterness, pay, privatisation and Blair.

A woman who works in a school summed up the day for me. She told me they had a picket line and it was all women. 'We're just ordinary women,' she said. She was proud that they were standing up and fighting back and organising.
HENRY RAJCH, GMB member, Barnsley council


It has been unbelievable here. It almost felt like a mini general strike or something. The Evening Chronicle, the local paper, had the headline 'Out'. Housing offices, social services offices, manual depots, libraries, all the museums and the two big city centre markets all shut.

Only three schools out of 102 were open. Over 150 building workers at one depot refused to cross picket lines and stayed out. Solidarity and unity have been the words that triumphed today. It's been a dream!
KENNY BELL, Unison member, Newcastle City Council


Nearly 2,000 people marched after picketing all morning. There were pickets at the main council depot and other sites. The atmosphere was, 'We've got a job to do-let's do it!' Postal workers refused to cross our lines. Bus drivers waved and cheered us.
DAVE KUIVALA, Nottingham council worker

Reports of success

A DELEGATION of journalists from the Independent joined striking council workers on the picket line at one office in Tower Hamlets, east London. 'We're here to show our support and solidarity with the low paid. Everyone's in the same boat,' said NUJ journalists' union member Kay Richardson.

Journalists at the Independent recently staged the first strike action at a national newspaper for 13 years in a successful fight over pay. Their gesture of solidarity boosted council workers. Unison shop steward Fred Vinluan said, 'This is a brilliant day. It's never happened before-all the unions out together, all across the country.'

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