The Coventry council bin strike is one of the longest-running local authority disputes in the Unite union’s history.
It has been lengthened by the council’s major scabbing operation through the Tom White Waste company that it fully owns.
Now a note from Tom White Waste to its business customers admits to increasing HGV2 drivers’ wages by 12 percent. The council won’t do that for its own workforce. The council is spending ten times more on agency staff to break the strike than it would cost to settle it.
Unite union leader Sharon Graham has been clear on saying that the Labour-run council is “waging war on our union”. She suspended the Unite membership of every Unite Coventry Labour councillor.
But this isn’t enough. Even the tiny number of Labour councillors who voted to donate money from a Unite branch to the bin strikers have failed to speak out publicly against the council’s actions.
Strikers are frustrated with the support from most regional officials. This is the biggest strike in the region. Yet the union has not mobilised its regional activists to visit the picket line or campaign to get activists to raise funds for the strike.
It is overwhelmingly organisers from the organising department who are seen on the Coventry picket line, not representatives from the region.
It is clear that a section of the regional bureaucracy seems uncomfortable with a strike against a Labour council, which is seen as disrupting Unite’s relationship with Labour.
The strikers took action to get a fair wage, so it is the Labour council who have disrupted Unite’s relationship with Labour by its actions. The interests of the members must come well before worrying about the union’s relationship with a strike-busting Labour.
Socialists and trade unionists need to redouble efforts to get behind this strike. If possible they should attend the rally in Coventry next Tuesday. But every socialist should be pushing for solidarity donations from their trade union and political branch.
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