By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2793

Coventry bin strikers bring their bitter anger to the Labour council

This a key battle to stop pay cuts and win respect
Issue 2793
Fifty Coventry strikers and supporters with red Unite union flags

Coventry strikers protesting at the council building on Tuesday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

“We have to win – there is no other option for us. We have to go back with a victory.” This is what determined Coventry bin striker David told Socialist Worker. HGV drivers for Coventry council are currently on all-out strike over the council’s refusal to move them up the pay grade.

The Labour-led council has pumped out lies about the strikers’ earnings from the beginning of the dispute. And it is now paying scab labour at Tom White Waste—owned by the council—to undermine the strike.

None of the councillors supported by the workers’ Unite union have attended talks with council bosses, leading the union to move to cut its funding.

David said, “We’re paid under the market rate. We feel undervalued. Without us the residents of Coventry have seen how bad it is.”

Striker Gurmit says the use of scab labour was the council’s attempt to “break the strike”.

“They’re not bothered about us they don’t care, they want to stop us,” he said.

The scab labour is paid around £20 an hour, while the strikers are battling to win just £16.50 an hour.

Strikes marched from the Unite headquarters in Coventry on Tuesday to a rally outside the council building. Here they tried to confront Labour councillors—who either ignored them or refused to listen to their anger. “Shame, shame, shame on you. Shame on you for turning blue,” they chanted.

Striker Anthony has worked for the council for some 13 years. “The council won’t talk to us or give us any decent offer round the table,” he told Socialist Worker. “The council is Labour by name, Tory by nature. It’s coming to the forefront now. We’re seeing the true people who are in charge.”

David said that the treatment and lies from the council “makes him angry”. “If I wasn’t on this picket I’d probably believe what they were saying,” he said.

“You do put trust in the council—how wrong was I? They are barefaced lying. They said we were on £52,000 a year. To earn that kind of money we’d have to work 11 hours a day, 7 days a week.

“There are a lot of angry people here. We don’t feel trusted, respected or valued.”

Striker Teresa told Socialist Worker, “It’s difficult. With inflation going up we need more money. We receive £22,000 a year. It’s nothing. It’s not fair—inflation goes up and pay stays down.”

Gurmit added, “We have families. Food prices are going up, so it’s important to have more money for the future.”

Strikers say they have had lots of solidarity from local trade unions and Unite nationally. At the rally PCS union flags attended with banners from Coventry and Birmingham trades councils. 

Teresa thinks the support is “opening a door” for other workers to start their own pay battles. “The power is with the people—they have to come to the streets and ask for fair pay,” she says.

David says the strikers are confident. “Morale is really high. The money is there. They’ve got the budgets. They could’ve resolved this dispute on less than they’re paying out for scab labour,” he says.

The Unite national leaders have to make sure this battle is won. And everyone needs to draw the lesson about Labour’s shameful attitude—this is not a party that stands up for fighting workers.

  • Support the strike, stop the scabbing: Coventry bin worker’s strike fund: Unity Trust Bank a/c Unite WM/7116 Branch Coventry Local Government, Sort code: 60-83-01, a/c number: 20302665. Messages of support to [email protected]

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