By Isabel Ringrose
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East London council organises scabbing against Unite strike

A "progressive" council in East London is organising scabbing against bin strike
Issue 2874
A group of a dozen striking bin workers in Tower Hamlets raise their fists

Defiance on the picket line in Tower Hamlets, east London. (Picture: Alan Kenny)

More than 200 bin workers employed by Tower Hamlets council in east London are in their second week of strikes and are set to escalate their action. The Unite union members now plan to extend their strike by another two weeks.

This is a fight against both the national employers’ body which sets pay rates, and the bosses of what is supposed to be a “progressive” council that wants to break the strike. Unite has rejected the English and Wales local government pay rise of £1,925, saying it doesn’t cover years of below-inflation pay deals.

Piles of rubbish are growing in Tower Hamlets and picketing has shut down the waste depot in Bow. Some 45 percent of the workforce are agency workers on casual contracts.

But a rumoured deal with the local council proposes to make just 30 of those contracts full time and permanent. Tower Hamlets council bosses are also trying to undermine the strike with scabbing. The council is paying strike breakers £300 a day—more than double the pay of a bin truck driver.

In an angry response Tower Hamlets Trades Council said, “We condemn the attempts by mayor Lutfur Rahman’s council to break the strike with scab labour. Rahman has now brought in private contractors Bywater, stating ‘Starting today (Saturday 23 September) private waste company Bywaters will be clearing the build-up of waste.’

“It has been reported that Rahman has blamed potential gender equality pay claims for not increasing workers’ pay. This is unacceptable union-busting and well below the standards of a council administration that claims to represent socialist values.”

It’s right for the bin ­workers to fight the low pay offer—and to expose the strike-busting tactics of the mayor who promised to bring change to the borough.

In neighbouring ­borough Newham, the council announced that bin ­workers’ strikes had been called off after an agreement with Unite. Meanwhile council workers in Wrexham and Cardiff rejoined Unite’s local government battle on Monday. Workers there are set to stay out until 15 October, having previously been out from 4 September until 17 September.


Transport strikes round-up – All aboard for class struggle

Tram workers in Manchester have voted unanimously to strike. Members of the GMB union work on the Metrolink service, which the council has outsourced to Bidwest Noonan. They are angry that since the contract was tendered their terms and conditions have been eroded. Workers want bosses to restore their sickness benefit scheme and bank holiday pay rates.

They plan to strike this Friday and the following Friday. The union is then set to continue strikes on 13 and 20 October.

Some 1,300 bus drivers for Go North East are set to walk out for seven days from this Saturday, and again from Saturday 14 October. Depots at Consett, Gateshead, Hexham, Percy Main (North Shields), Sunderland and Washington will be affected. Go North East bosses have not offered the Unite union members a decent pay rise, and are threatening to cut terms and conditions.

Southampton bus drivers are voting on whether to take action over safety concerns. Workers began voting in a consultative ballot last Friday after drivers flagged up a change of route that could be dangerous for themselves and the public. Bosses of the Unilink bus provider pushed through the change that will see drivers forced to take a dangerous right turn. The GMB union says the consultation is likely to be followed by a formal strike ballot.

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