Socialist Worker

Determined Thurrock council strike halts cuts to pay

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2756

Thurrock council workers on the picket line

Thurrock council workers on the picket line (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Determined strikes by ­workers at Thurrock council in Essex have pushed back assaults on their pay.

The 90 workers faced losing between £1,200 and £3,800.

The Tory-run council planned to slash highway maintenance, refuse and street cleaning workers’ pay.

Bosses also wanted to cut ­payments for working unsocial hours, overtime, night shifts and bank holidays.

Thurrock Council has now, according to the Unite union, made “positive changes” to their original proposal, which will mean ­members will not have to suffer a reduction to their pay.

The workers have been on strike since 13 April.

They headed back to work on Monday.

Justice for Refuse Workers and Cleansers, a campaign group in London and Essex, said, “From the outset all that we wanted was our existing terms and conditions and pay.

Thurrock council workers take to picket lines over pay cuts
Thurrock council workers take to picket lines over pay cuts
  Read More

“This wasn’t about a pay rise, but about the basic idea that those on the lower end of the scale who worked throughout the pandemic would not be made worse off.

“The support that we have had from the residents has been ­amazing and we want to thank you all.”

Some 90 percent of workers had voted for the strikes with a huge turnout of around 70 percent.

Unite regional officer Michelle Cook said, “This deal is a victory for the workers who stood firm for six weeks in a strike to defend their pay.

“The workers and the residents of Thurrock will be pleased that the council has amended these plans and services can get back to normal.

“These essential workers, who were applauded for their work through the pandemic, now deserve to be applauded for the solidarity and determination they showed.

“When workers organise, ­workers win” Michelle added.

And trade unionist Willie Howard added that the strikers “faced down police harassment,Antisocial behaviour notices, smear campaigns, threats from thugs and the full propaganda machine of a well-funded local authority.”

“We often hear the phrase ­‘workers won’t pay the price for the pandemic’ bandied about,” he said. “The unfortunate reality is that we will—unless we organise, we stick together and we fight back.”

Vigilant

Howard said although the strikers are calling this a win “we remain ready and vigilant” if the council reneges on the deal.

“The victory here isn’t just for these workers. It’s for all of us,” he added.

“Organising works—we need it at the heart of our unions.”

The win in Thurrock will be a boost to all workers currently striking over plans by bosses to inflict worse pay and conditions by bosses in the wake of the pandemic.

Strikes and solidarity is the way to push them back—and show where the real power for change lies.


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