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Cityclean workers’ action begins

November 6, 2009

CityClean Demo09In the past month, the prospect of a citywide strike of all refuse collection workers has moved from a possibility on the horizon to imminent. Threats of huge pay cuts have come from the council over the past year, with equally robust responses from the workers stating unequivocally that they would not be willing to accept this. In the name of “equality”, the council want to impose cuts of £6,000-8,000 on a workforce earning up to £19,000 (for more detail, see our previous coverage). Faced with impoverishment, the workers voted almost unanimously (over 94%) for ongoing industrial action last week.

As we go to press, refuse workers have already started a work to rule this means following all rules to the letter, and not doing anything that is not explicitly spelled out in their contract. Monday 9th November will see the start of a week long all out strike, with the prospect of further action in the future. Such a robust response is exactly what is needed in the face of these wage cuts, and  indeed, is the only chance of resisting them.

Just as it did with the postal strike, the propaganda machine against the refuse workers is reaching full swing – bin men are vilified as lazy, greedy, rude, useless etc. The commentators who are right now claiming “If they go on strike will anyone notice, hurh hurh” will if the strikes go ahead as planned be the same ones hysterically denouncing the effect the strike is having on the whole city.

It is vital that the refuse workers win – not just because of the crass unfairness of wage cuts of up to £8000, but for the simple reason that if they lose, then anyone can (and most likely will) be next. These workers have repeatedly fought back when their bosses have tried to treat them like crap, and they have often been successful. Their willingness to fight is what has attracted the real ire of council bosses, and that is why they have been chosen to be made an example of. If even the most militant workers in Brighton are unable to defend themselves, this will send a powerful and negative message to anyone else thinking about defending themselves when the axe falls on them.

The best and quickest way for this dispute to be won is for the workers involved to spread it. The whole of the public sector is under attack, and any attempt to fight attacks one at a time is a real uphill struggle. However, if other workers realise they have a common, immediate interest alongside this dispute and are willing to take combined action, this local wave of cuts can be stopped in its tracks.

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