Trade unionists have vowed to keep up solidarity with the “GMB Three” after their first day in court on Friday. The three GMB union officials were arrested on a bin strikers’ picket line at the Amberstone depot in Wealden, East Sussex, in May.
Around 50 people protested outside Hastings magistrates court in solidarity with Gary Palmer, Carl Turner and Declan McIntyre. Their case will go to full trial at Brighton Crown Court on 16 November after all three pleaded not guilty on charges of obstruction of a highway.
Palmer said, “We are pleading not guilty. Why would we do anything else? We’ve not broken any law. And if we have, it’s been unfairly imposed on trade unionists. We will continue to organise, we will push for workers who need a pay rise to mount industrial action. The fight never stops.”
Simon Hester, chair of Hastings and District trades union council, was at the pickets at the time of the arrests. He told Socialist Worker he thought the police had made a “political” decision to arrest trade union activists.
“I asked the police why they were making their arrests on the day, and they said because ‘public opinion’ had changed. I then asked how they got to decide where public opinion is—the police officer quickly stopped talking to me after that.
“But what’s clear is this attack on these trade unionists is an attack on pickets and the right to strike.”
It’s vital everyone defends the right to strike and picket as the cost of living crisis deepens. Justin Bowden, GMB regional secretary, said, “The background to this court case is really simple. It was about ordinary people facing a cost of living crisis unprecedented in my working life.
“We pleaded not guilty, why would we do anything else? We’ve not broken any law. And if we did it’s been unfairly imposed on trade unions.” @jannerinsussex speaks after #GMB3 case heard. Defend the right to strike, defend the right to picket #solidarity @GMBSussexBranch pic.twitter.com/6EEISkpZAn
— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) June 29, 2022
“They were standing up against an employer and trying to get better pay to support their families. A lot of these people were being paid under £10 an hour for walking 15 to 20 miles a day. They made a democratic decision and they struck.”
The bin workers have since returned to work after accepting a new pay deal from outsourcer Biffa.
The GMB Three case is a chilling example of how the Tories have emboldened the police to clamp down on working class people taking a stand. Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should show their support for the GMB Three.
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