By Sophie Squire
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2807

Wealden bin workers refuse to be intimidated after arrests on picket line

Gary Palmer, one of those arrested on the GMB union members’ picket line in East Sussex, remains defiant
Issue 2807
In all police have arrested three @gmb_union officials on the Wealden bin workers' picket line—two full-time officers and a local convenor.#Solidarity with the struggle. Walkout needed across Wealden and elsewhere. Defend union rights and picketing.— Socialist Worker (@socialistworker) May 27, 2022

Cops arrest GMB union official Gary Palmer during the Wealden bin strike

One of the three trade unionists arrested on a refuse workers’ picket line on Friday has vowed, “We’ll keep on protesting, disrupting and striking.” 

Gary Palmer, a GMB organiser, was handcuffed and arrested at the Amberstone depot in Wealden. The workers, who are outsourced to Biffa, have been striking for over a month to win £12.50 an hour for loaders and £15.50 for drivers.

Palmer told Socialist Worker that he believes that the police intimidation and arrests were a “stage-managed” attempt to break the strikes. “This was a plot between outsourcer Biffa, Wealden council and the police,” he said. “They knew what they were doing. We knew it was because the council had recalled all the trucks to the Amberstone depot the night before.” 

“The police arrived at the picket line and told us they were there ‘just in case’ an offence occurred. They were looking for me specifically, and they called my name. I was standing in the road with a line of vans behind me. I was having a cup of tea, and they told me to move. I said I wouldn’t. Then it stopped being so calm, a line of police stepped forward, and I was arrested.” He was taken to Eastbourne police station, charged with obstruction of a highway and is banned from going within 100 metres of the Amberstone depot. 

Palmer added that he believes what happened on Friday will be repeated elsewhere. “We will see the intimidation of the trade unionists become more regular,” Palmer said. “The Tories have given the cops confidence. We’ve seen attacks on the RMT union this week as well. 

“The sheer amount of cops at the Amberstone pickets was like nothing I’ve seen. There were six in the police van I was put in when I was arrested. The two other activists said about six were in their vans as well. Four or five were stationed at Amberstone depot for the rest of the day. They are putting a lot of resources into this.” 

Palmer pointed out that the cops’ intimidation has done the opposite of what Biffa and the council wanted. The GMB Sussex union branch said it would be “very much appreciated” if people joined the picket at Amberstone on Monday and “the rest of the week”.

And the union has organised a protest for 29 June in solidarity with those arrested outside Hastings magistrates court. “We’ve received so many messages of support and more promises to join the picket lines,” he said. “Workers are clear they’ll keep on striking. The support has given them a boost. 

Gary is clear he won’t stop blocking vans from departing depots to try and break the strike. “We’ll keep on protesting, disrupting and striking” he said. “Workers desperately need a pay rise to feed their families and heat their homes. “It’s down to trade unions to show solidarity and strength. We can’t shrink away. This is the time to stand with low paid workers.” 

Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners should build solidarity for the Wealden refuse workers—and join the picket lines. 

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