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Newham bin strikers reject Labour’s lies + OCS strike escalation

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Why Labour's claims about the offer to bin strikers are false
Issue 2823
Group of black and white Newham bin strike activists with black worker in foreground with placard "Fair pay now" from the Unite union

Newham strikers marched on the town hall on 1 September (Picture: Guy Smallman)

Bin workers in Newham, east London, are set for two weeks of strikes from Tuesday this week—and rubbish could soon be piled up in the streets.

Unite union members at the refuse service are battling both the Labour-run council’s pay cuts, and its lies about how much bin workers have been offered. Some 130 loaders and drivers are due to take action with picket lines planned every day.

Earlier strikes that began at the end of August saw solid action, strong picket lines and an angry march to the town hall.

“I want better pay and ­conditions and for the ­bullying to stop,” Newham striker Phil told Socialist Worker. “It’s terrible we’re being treated like this, especially by a Labour council. They may as well change their flags from red to blue.

The council has put forward an offer worth just £950 a year—and only if workers are on shift every bank ­holiday week.

Yet Labour mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz claimed that workers have been offered up to 17.9 percent by the council. This distorted figure includes a national pay offer for all local authority workers which has not even been agreed.

The national pay negotiations do not address how workers in Newham are paid almost £2,000 less than workers in Greenwich and Hackney who are doing the same job.

The council also included a retention payment which workers already receive each year and is not being increased. And Fiaz added on ­overtime payments which are not guaranteed. Workers would have to work every bank holiday, and not be off sick or on leave on a single bank holiday.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “The borough needs to stop peddling misinformation and get on with the job of negotiating an end to the strike. Obviously, the workers would not be on strike if these claims about huge pay rises were real.

“The workers have Unite’s complete support. Newham council must realise that game playing won’t end the dispute.”

Determined action by workers can win. A solid strike by refuse workers in Edinburgh helped bring bosses back to the negotiating table on three occasions. But unlike Edinburgh, workers in Newham should keep up the strikes until they’ve secured a genuinely inflation-busting pay rise.

  • Visit the picket lines, 5.30am until 2pm each strike day, Central Depot, Folkstone Road, London, E6 6BX

A major escalation by OCS strikers in NHS fight

Some 50 low-paid health workers in Lancashire are set to start 12 days of strikes next week.

The porters, cleaners and caterers, who are members of the Unison union, work for contractor OCS at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Trust. They are demanding proper sick pay and extra money for working unsocial hours.

They have been striking on and off since June. The next strike is set to start on Tuesday 27 September and run until Sunday 9 October and is a big step up in the level of action.

That means more picket line solidarity is vital. The strike received a boost last week when striker Joanne addressed a packed Enough is Enough meeting in Lancaster and announced the new strike dates.

The giant OCS outsourcing firm is owned by an aggressive US hedge fund that also owns Morrisons supermarkets.

Despite being awash with public money, the company is refusing to agree to the relatively small demands workers are making. The firm has so far refused to negotiate with the union and has even targeted activists for disciplinary action.

  • Tweet messages of support to @NorthWestUNISON and @OCSDispute and send donations to Unison North West

Yuri Prasad

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