Medway trades union council (TUC) organised a drive-by this week to show solidarity with eight suspended bin workers.
A convoy of cars went by Medway council and Norse Medway offices “blaring their horns to raise their attention and highlight their plight”.
The eight workers at subcontractor Norse Medway were suspended at the end of last month, and bosses derecognised the Unite union.
The attack came after workers drove past the council head office honking their horns in protest at bosses’ failure to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Norse Medway is 50 percent owned by the council and outsourcing giant Norse. Tory councillor Rupert Turpin—the cabinet member for business management—is a director of the company.
A statement from Medway TUC said workers held the drive by to “demonstrate how unhappy they were about the lack of proper precautions to protect their lives under the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“Instead of addressing the clearly deeply held grievances they had, bosses suspended them and put the rest of their crews under investigation,” it said.
Workers held a walkout under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act on 30 March. This piece of legislation means workers can refuse to work on health and safety grounds without a ballot for industrial action.
The following day, Unite said that “a number of safety measures were agreed” after the “company was named and shamed”.
But workers say bosses reneged on the deal and derecognised the union.
Medway TUC held a socially-distanced protest outside the depot on Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April. Steve Wilkins, Medway TUC secretary, said, “We all know who is responsible for this disgraceful set of affairs and we will not let them get away with it.
“We will shine a light on this Dickensian attitude to labour relations and their utter disdain and contempt for their workers.”
Unite has given formal notice of a ballot for industrial action.
Strikes are not expected until the beginning of June, but the risk of workers catching coronavirus remains.
The dispute shows the need for swift action—not waiting for ballots—to take on bosses putting profit before health.
Bosses across Britain will try to force a return to work and “business as usual” as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Trade unionists must organise now for action to stop a return to unsafe workplaces.
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