By Julie Sherry
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Brighton bin workers start solid week-long strike

This article is over 10 years, 11 months old
Issue 2357
Picketing the bin depot on the first day of the strike
Picketing the bin depot on the first day of the strike (Pic: Julie Sherry)

Today some 300 Brighton bin workers employed by Cityclean started a week long strike against a pay assault led by Green Party Council leader Jason Kitcat and council chief executive Penny Thompson.

From 6am, pickets swarmed across the gates, brandishing placards reading “Have a break Kitcat… Leave council workers’ pay alone”.

Neil Harding, a street cleaner who has stepped up as a new steward for the workers’ GMB union, spoke to Socialist Worker.

“Our strike is solid. We’ve had a 96 percent vote for action, on an 86 percent turnout—you can’t ask for stronger support.

“It’s infuriating—we’ve had letters, twice now, with Penny Thompson saying what a great deal we’re getting!

“I’d lose £2,000—a huge hit. Some drivers would lose £4,000. We simply won’t be able to pay our rent. If this goes through, people will have to look for another job. Of course there are none!”

Steve O, another striker, agreed. He told Socialist Worker, “My monthly outgoings are £1,000, and I only get about £1,200—there’s no choice but to strike. The Green Party said between £20,000 and £21,000 a year should be minimum wage—we’re well below that, so why are they taking from us?”

The Green Party is split in Brighton over the cuts. Neil explained how these tensions helped the strikers pressure council bosses to shift.

“The Greens already backtracked on scab labour. They’ve been forced to recognise they can’t just ignore us. It’s dawning on them that a week long bin strike ain’t gonna be pretty. Funnily enough, it’s Eco Day tomorrow.”

Strikers were clear on taking on the council’s attempts to justify slashing pay.

Neil continued, “They’re claiming it’s about equal pay, that’s just an effort to dress up a pay cut.”

“They’re saying the council will be bankrupt, but they won’t explain their figures. We don’t trust them. And lots of Green Party members are disgusted by what the council are doing.”

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas attended the picket line. And a Green Party activist handed in £250 collected from individual party members.

As rush hour traffic got going, there was a constant stream of drivers tooting in solidarity.

Steve continued, “It’s happening everywhere, we’re sending a message that you can’t just be shafted by pay cuts. You’ve got to take a stand. Otherwise they’ll be back for more.

“Collections are already behind because of our work to rule. Now as it’s all backing up they’ll be saying, ‘Hang on, maybe these people are actually important’.”

Rush messages of support and invites for speakers to meetings to [email protected] 



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