By Sarah Bates
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‘We aren’t going anywhere until we win’—Barnet Group workers on all-out strike

This article is over 1 years, 5 months old
Strikers at The Barnet Group—owned by Barnet Labour-run council—are fighting for a co-worker who was denied sick pay after he was injured at work
Issue 2829
Local government workers in Barnet on the picket lines with Unison the union banners, flags, shirts and placards.

Council home repair workers on the picket line in Barnet, north London (Picture: Barnet Unison)

Workers in Barnet, north London, are determined their strike will win sick pay for a low-paid worker. 

Ground worker Mejdi Lushi was injured while at work. Not only was he denied sick pay from The Barnet Group, a firm owned by the Labour-run council, bosses offered him a loan so he could survive. 

Now council home repair workers are on an all-out, continuous strike. All but one worker from the team has come out. “It feels great with all the lads supporting me,” Mejdi told Socialist Worker. 

“I feel very powerful. The day when I stopped working one of the workers came and handed me £200 and put it in my pocket.”

Workers were previously employed by private outsourcer Mears, and were transferred to The Barnet Group. In negotiations about the conditions of the transfer, bosses agreed that workers were entitled to sick pay. But they refused to postdate the agreement to the time of Mejdi’s injury—a difference of just three weeks.

Instead of paying up a mere £1,500 the workers are demanding, the council is digging its heels in. It is causing a backlog of around 200 jobs every week the strike continues. It means disaster for residents depending on vital repairs to their homes, and it is a huge undertaking for a group of low-paid workers. 

But painter and decorator Tony said Mejdi has “got nothing to worry about” and all the strikers would defend him to the hilt. “It’s not about money, it’s about one of us getting injured at work,” he said. 

“We’ve got to stand tight because that could have been me, it could have been any one of us. We aren’t going anywhere until we win.”

Barnet Unison union branch secretary John Burgess told Socialist Worker that bosses are risking huge disruption to their residents for what amounts to a tiny amount of money “Throughout the last four months at different times we’ve been trying to get them to see sense,” he said. 

He said that workers were insistent that the strike should not be limited to one or two days of action, but be hard-hitting from the beginning. “They said, ‘We want to walk out, let’s walk out and not come back’. They’re adamant they want to stay out,” he said. 

Strikers are building strong picket lines for every day of their action, and are piling pressure on the council. Solidarity is at the heart of the dispute and workers remain strong. Mejdi said that workers were fighting for more than just his sick pay. “We are hoping that we’re going to get the respect that any worker should have,” he said. 

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