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Hackney council workers in revolt over pay

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Battles in the councils should take inspiration from the win at Adur and Worthing
Issue 2802

Picketing at Millfields Road on Monday (Pic: Hackney SWP)

More than 200 east London council ­workers struck over pay from Monday to Wednesday this week. They work in Hackney’s refuse, building services and passenger services for those with disabilities and special educational needs.

Strikers are fighting the local implementation of the paltry 1.75 percent pay rise decreed nationally by the Local Government Association (LGA).  

The workers want Hackney council bosses to agree at least a 10 percent raise. 

At the Millfields Road bins depot, pickets and ­supporters gathered from 5am on Monday in an effort to win support from members of other unions who had not been called out on strike.

A striker told Socialist Worker, “Some did not go through the picket and we thank them. But the management put relentless pressure on others and particularly the agency workers who are looking for full time work. 

“We need to keep up the argument and the pickets because this strike is for all council workers.” Workers in Unison were balloted for strikes but didn’t reach the threshold under the anti‑union laws, and GMB union workers weren’t ­balloted at all.

On Thursday last week around 150 council workers and their supporters gathered on the steps of Hackney town hall for a rally to prepare for the action.

Claire, who was soon to be on strike, told Socialist Worker, “The pay deal we’ve been offered isn’t good enough when all ­workers feel the squeeze. People can’t afford food now and are forced to look for second jobs.” 

Speakers from the Hackney branch of the NEU union, Hackney trades council and the Homerton hospital branch of the Unison union gave messages of solidarity. At the rally workers held up signs that read, “We are in this together” and “We demand 10 percent now.”

John, a council electrician and the strike convenor told Socialist Worker, “What we have been offered nationally is a pay cut, a pay cut of 6.25 percent. We know the council has the budget to pay workers properly, but they choose not to.”

Further action is planned from Tuesday to Thursday next week.

Win at Adur & Worthing shows strikes get results

Strong strikes have led to success for refuse workers at Adur and Worthing council.  The members of the GMB union, who have been striking since February, voted to accept a revised pay deal on Thursday of last week. 

Refuse loaders will now receive an 8.2 percent pay rise, cleansing drivers will receive an extra 10.4 percent, and HGV drivers will see their pay packet increase by 20.7 percent. 

The council has also vowed to conduct a review of the job roles of HGV drivers. The GMB has warned that workers will strike again if the council does not uphold this deal. 

After almost 30 days of strikers refuse workers have stood up to the actions of nasty Tory councillors who sought to break the strikes from the beginning.

This victory shows that lively picket lines and strong strikes can win a better deal for refuse workers. 

  • Refuse workers for Wealden district council in Sussex have paused their strike after the council offered them a revised pay deal. 

The members of the GMB union planned to begin strikes on Monday. 

The deal, from outsourcer Biffa, fell short of what workers had demanded. But strikes were still called off so workers could consider their next steps. 

Workers should strike for a much better deal. 

  • Bin collection and street cleaning workers in Rugby began a two-week strike from Tuesday. GMB and Unite union members are demanding a real pay rise.

Biffa battle in Manchester

Over 200 workers—drivers, loaders and environmental operatives —employed by Biffa on the outsourced Manchester council refuse collection contract are set for strikes over pay.

They are scheduled to strike for two weeks from next Tuesday until 13 May. 

Then more strikes are planned from Monday 23 May until Friday 3 June. Biffa is offering the workers, including GMB and Unite union members, just 1.75 percent on pay, a real terms pay cut

The first period of strikes coincides with the local elections on 5 May.  The second period of industrial action corresponds with the queen’s platinum jubilee.

Biffa’s bosses have plenty of cash to pay for a 10 percent pay rise or more. It recorded bumper pre-tax profits of over £26 million last year.

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