Angry council workers struck and marched in Hackney, east London, on Monday demanding a ten percent pay rise. The strikers, members of the Unite union in refuse and direct works sections, were set to take two more days of strike action this week.
There is deepening anger and frustration among the strikers and in the wider council workforce as the cost of living crisis bites.
Membership of the Unite union is growing among the workers there, and at least one joined the union for the first time on the picket line. Unite is currently balloting other sections of the council workforce to join the action.
The pickets, joined by union activists from Homerton hospital and local schools, took part in an impromptu march, to drive their message home. They rallied outside Hackney Central Bus Garage, before moving on the “Glass Cage”—the council’s service centre.
The council says it cannot enter talks with the union because it has already accepted this year’s national 1.75 percent pay agreement. But local Unite officers argue the council has £300 million in reserves that it could use to meeting their demand for a 10 percent increase.
“We are sick of the council playing politics with us,” said one shop steward. “They say they have offered to sit down with us—but we wouldn’t be on strike if there had been anything meaningful on offer.
“It’s no good the council hiding behind national agreements or saying other unions have accepted less. Every worker in Hackney is hurting. We all need a pay rise, and I believe we will all be fighting together for one, soon enough.
“Our union has reached decent deals with other councils, many of them Tory run. What is Labour in Hackney doing?” It’s not just pay. We know more cuts are coming and Labour is going to have to take sides.”
The workers were set to strike again on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
Unison union members in Kirklees Council Cleansing Department voted 96 percent for industrial action on a 74 percent in a consultative ballot last week. The ballot was organised to address a number of issues still outstanding from a bin workers’ strike in 2018.
Concerns over inequitable rounds have yet to be resolved despite a number of management reviews. The social emergency has exacerbated their concerns as they worked throughout the lockdown and are still earning just £10.38 an hour.
Management’s response to recruitment problems has led to an increased use of agency staff. Workers met following the ballot result. They have agreed to demand from management immediate resolution of the unfair rounds, the ending of the use of agency staff within six months, and a new evaluation of their jobs.
They were shocked to hear that since the sacking of branch secretary Paul Holmes, the council is victimising three bin workers’ stewards.
Nick Ruff, Kirklees Unison branch chair (personal capacity)
Local government workers in Scotland were set to hear the results of their strike ballot, as Socialist Worker went to press. Some 25,000 Unison union members had been voting for seven weeks over pay.
Workers in schools, early years, waste and recycling across Scotland were offered just 2 percent by local government pay awarding body Cosla. Whatever the result of the ballot, it should be just the first step in a wider fight for pay justice.
UPDATE: Unison union members in all councils across Scotland overwhelmingly voted to reject the Cosla offer with nine local authority branches exceeding the required 50 percent turnout threshold required by the anti-union laws. The branches that met the threshold are City of Glasgow, Orkney Islands Council, Aberdeenshire Council, East Renfrewshire Council, North Lanarkshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council, Clackmannanshire Council, Stirling Council and Inverclyde.
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