Hundreds of Barnet council workers in north London walked out for the seventh time this year today, Monday, against another wave of privatisation by the Tory council.
Social workers, school escorts, refuse workers, librarians and school catering staff were among those on strike.
“We object to being outsourced to a private company to make a profit,” school escort Ailsa told Socialist Worker.
“If we’re outsourced our hours won’t be guaranteed. They will pinch every penny from you if they can,” she said.
The Unison union branch chose the date to coincide with the TUC protests against the Trade Union Bill. If the Tories get this through parliament more council privatisation will soon follow. The bill is designed to block resistance.
At the Mill Hill depot strikers braved the freezing fog. A constant stream of tooting car horns showed the strike is popular.
Despite overwhelming local opposition they are determined to drive the changes through. But refuse worker Malcolm said that bosses’ attempt to undermine the strike had backfired.
“They tried to do collections on Sunday but didn’t inform anyone. So essentially the council just wasted public money having the carts driving around and the rubbish wasn’t collected,” he explained.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis made a fleeting visit to the picket line. It boosted strikers, but many asked why it was the first time he had ever visited when he lives nearby.
They suspected it may have something to do with the union’s general secretary election. Their Unison branch secretary John Burgess standing against him.
“I hope John wins,” said Ailsa. “We need someone like him leading Unison. He’s fought hard and defended our jobs every time they’ve come for them. John fights our corner.”
Malcolm agreed. “This is a huge union. We’re facing the same cuts and privatisation across councils so why won’t they coordinate the ballots and bring us all out at the same time?” he asked.
John told Socialist Worker the strikes are frustrating the Tories’ plan. “The outsourcing decision has now been shunted from 11 Jan to some point in the future. I think council leaders are worried.
“Reps are now asking for us to go out for a week next – so we’re going to explore that if the council don’t back down.”
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