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From The Socialist newspaper, 8 September 2021

Bexley bin workers win big gains after six-week strike

Bexley bin workers on strike, photo Rob Williams

Bexley bin workers on strike, photo Rob Williams   (Click to enlarge)

Rob Williams, Socialist Party industrial organiser

The Socialist Party welcomes the improvements to pay and conditions that striking Bexley bin workers in Unite have won after taking indefinite action for over six weeks. They started their dispute in the South London borough in the weeks before the first wave of the Covid pandemic early last year. That action was then suspended and the bin workers showed that they were key workers, putting their health at risk during the height of coronavirus.

But all this has been forgotten by their employer, the notorious Serco, and the Tory council, with the same issues remaining. A series of different outsourced companies over the years after the service was privatised has seen workers employed on different pay and hours. This has led to anomalies with newer workers being on up to 6,000 more than some of their more longstanding workmates who have service of over a decade.

The strike was vital as the Serco contract is coming to an end next month, to be replaced by Countrystyle. The workers' union Unite reports that: "The agreement with Countrystyle Recycling will see the lowest-paid workers receive a pay rise of 11% with rates increasing to 11.50 an hour, above the real London Living Wage of 10.85, as well as pay rises for staff on other grades.

"Some drivers, previously on 22,000 a year because of Serco's failure to pay workers according to stipulated pay scales, will see their wages increase to more than 30,000 when they transfer to Countrystyle. The deal with Countrystyle also sees staff receive an extra five days annual leave as well as 12 weeks of industrial injury sick pay that was denied them by Serco."

This result was achieved by the determination of Unite and its members at Bexley, who had to face up to hardline policing at the start of the dispute. The workers welcomed Socialist Party members and National Shop Stewards Network (NSSN) supporters, who consistently went to the picket line to support their action, as well as the likes of Tony Davis Unite convenor of the bin workers in Thurrock, just across the Dartford Bridge. They had also won a victory over another Tory council earlier this year after also being out for six weeks, and their successful action was an inspiration to the Bexley workers.

This result will strengthen the union in the bin depot, and the workers are fully aware of how outsourcing will always be a stick to beat them. The Tory council tried to act as 'neutral' during the dispute, as if it was nothing to do with them. But the workers weren't fooled and organised protests outside the council HQ.

While the outcome is welcome, the workers also support the need to stop privatisation and bring these services back in-house along with their jobs and terms and conditions.

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In The Socialist 8 September 2021:

NHS and social care

NHS and social care - make the rich pay, not the workers

Workers shouldn't pay for health and social care plans

End service cuts and care charges

Families demand rights for care home residents

Whipps Cross hospital workers reject the 3%

What we think

A pivotal moment for the trade union movement

Socialist Party news and campaigns

Socialist Party national council - members enthused by excellent in-person meeting

Why I joined the Socialist Party


Union action needed to make schools Covid safe

Fighting NEU leadership needed to tackle school funding crisis

Schools funding crisis fails vulnerable children

University bosses push through pension cuts proposal

9/11 twenty years on

9/11 and the 'War on Terror' twenty years on

Workplace news

Bexley bin workers win big gains after six-week strike

Equity protest to save arts centre forces talks from Newham Council

DWP: Demand safe working and more jobs

DHL workers to strike against wage theft

Youth Fight for Jobs

Organising to defend our future: 9 October- Youth fight for jobs day of action

Building Youth Fight for Jobs in the South West

International news

Libya - ten years after Gaddafi's overthrow

US Supreme Court refuses to challenge Texas abortion ban

Keep fascists out of Portland: Build a mass movement to fight the right

Readers' opinion

The street I live on

Socialist change, not climate change

Vigil: A nuclear sub murder mystery


Obituary: Roger Henshaw, comrade and class fighter


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