Thanks to Corinthia Ward from Birmingham Socialist Party for this update:
VICTORY FOR STANDING TOGETHER AND UNION ORGANISATION – But issues remain to be resolved
Following magnificent action by Brum’s bin workers with high turnouts at picket lines, the increasingly determined workforce has forced a management retreat. It was the strength and determination, organisation and unity with effective flexible tactics that forced a ‘hard-nosed’ employer to the table.
The strike has been suspended pending talks around other issues after the Council gave up their attack on Grade 3 workers. It represents a defeat for bosses and also included that a suspended union rep was re-instated.
Scandalously, the Council tried to make bin-workers pay for gross mismanagement over the years and attacked, intimidated, lied about and tried to turn the public against them.
Little wonder most bin workers don’t trust the Councillors -who were backed up by the TV and press. Councillors used the language of Thatcher to claim bin workers were ‘holding our city to ransom’. But who was holding who to ransom? The council demanding a 25% pay cut or lose your job, that’s who!
They spent over £2million trying to organise a scab army to break the workers dispute when it would have only cost £330,000 to settle the grade 3 issue.
They implied “other services” were being put at risk by the strike. Yet the only threat to services in Birmingham is the council that is voting to cut them! Clearly they are New Labour not Corbyn Labour
The failure of the public to turn on bin workers surprised the council and media. But most Birmingham people now have direct experience of the constant attacks, cuts and speed ups that modern management use. So their sympathy was with the bin workers. They too, have had enough.
A Union that fights for its members wins support: Unite members were left alone to fight this dispute when UNISON and GMB failed to join the dispute. UNITE will come out of this event stronger in terms of experience and with over 60 new members recruited.
Issues still remain to be resolved …..
Clearly, all the issues of work patterns and other management demands are yet to be hammered out, and bin workers will all have an eye on that. But other issues also arise.
Bullying and intimidating managers – A Lifford Lane worker said that their priority in any negotiations were to get rid of a manager who bullied a street cleaner wagon driver in front of the pickets, to keep the Grade 3 jobs and stop the £4,000 to £5,000 a year pay cut.
Agency workers – many of whom supported the strike. We must seek to get all agency workers on permanent contracts. One said “I’m on the agency we get £8.50/hour. The public think we get great money. It’s hard work out in the rain and cold, I’d like to see the councillors do a shift.”
The council … They attacked workers, blamed them, used scabs and bullying. They can’t be trusted. If they can say the things they did, they might be back for more.
And Labour…. The Labour Party here isn’t fit for purpose and must be changed. Not one single Labour MP or Councillor publicly spoke in favour of the union member’s struggle. Only at the end, did Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Erdington, having told the union to ‘compromise’ early on, appear on local TV to demand the ‘two sides’ stick to the agreement in the best interest of the people of Birmingham. He totally ignores the anti-trade union tactics of this Labour-controlled Council.
One lad spoke for many “I’m Labour, I’ve voted Labour all my life, but never again, not after this.” The Blue Labour Blairites must go.
South East B’ham Socialist Party members took £100 collected at their recent public meeting to Tyseley picket line. Bill Murray presenting it said “Bin workers have drawn a line in the sand that enough is enough. No more attacks on workers to make them pay for a problem they have not created.”
A clear warning has been sent to government, councils and profiteers who demand ever more cuts to jobs and pay to bail out bankers – expecting workers to live on ‘chocolate buttons’ – we’ve had enough.
A bin worker said, “I know this sounds mad but I love my job, I’ve been here 16 years. Don’t get me wrong I don’t enjoy getting up at 5, working in all weathers, but it’s the team, they’re such great lads.”
The bin workers are, and they deserve what looks like a victory. They have struck a blow for all workers in this city.
Because be sure, what bosses wanted to enforce on them, they would have tried to enforce across the council and ultimately it would had an effect on all employment in Brum.
As negotiations continue, the workers watchword will be “Vigilance”.
Local Government in crisis
– Austerity means Local Authority budgets across the country are being subjected to massive cuts. Not one single council has resisted and defended services but instead are cutting budgets and attacking their employees’ terms and conditions. Due to this, the next dispute will not be too far away. Lessons learned in this dispute must be applied to the next action.
Socialist Party: proud to have supported bin workers.
Socialist Party members fully supported this dispute with initiatives and ideas. We were able to call upon members in trade unions across the country to arrange donations and picket line visits. We provided contact details for the impending bin workers strike action in Doncaster.
Stoke Socialist Party members are also proud to have played a very small part in this victory with a visit to the bin workers picket line and building support for their struggle via social media. And we send a big well done to our comrades in Birmingham and in particular to the Brummy bin workers.