Haringey bin workers have been on indefinite all out strike since Monday 31 July. Members of the T&G union voted unanimously for strike action after Accord, the private company who run the service, threatened to remove two bin lorries.
Strikers say that they would be expected to carry out the same amount of work with a smaller fleet. A number of workers could be redeployed to other duties.
The 48 workers rejected a cash offer of £1,450 each to accept the changes. Steve Fletcher, the T&G branch chair, who has worked on the bins in Haringey for 28 years, told Socialist Worker, “It’s not a monetary issue, it’s a question of health and safety.”
Accord boast on their website that, “in providing vital community services, health and safety is fundamental to all of Accord’s operations”. Yet Steve said, “Removing two lorries would create more work than the workforce could safely do.
“Most full time workers here have been here for 20 years or more. We have given a lot of service to the residents of the borough.”
However, Accord are increasingly employing agency staff. They recently told shop stewards that they cannot afford to replace full time workers who leave or retire. The strikers say that the agency staff are on worse wages and conditions.
“They should be given full time contracts too,” said Steve. “Many agency staff support our dispute. A lot of them were called into work on Monday of this week, but when they got here and found we are still on strike a lot of them went home.”
The strikers have elected a strike committee and are organising regular picketing of the Ashley Road depot. Road sweepers from the depot, also members of the T&G, were due to meet on Wednesday to discuss the dispute.
Victor, a road sweeper who is not officially on strike, joined the picket line last week. He said that the issue is privatisation. “All our services are being privatised. This is leading to increased numbers of casual workers and worse services.”
Local trade unionists are raising support for the strikers. Keith Flett is secretary of the Haringey trades council and lives in the borough. He said, “The strike is having a big impact. Accord are managing to get a small number of lorries out to clear some main roads but in all the residential areas, the rubbish is beginning to pile up.
“We have been down to the picket line to express support, and the trades council has organised a collection sheet which we have sent out to other workers to raise solidarity.”
The trades council also organised a support meeting which was due to take place after Socialist Worker went to press.