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From The Socialist newspaper, 5 June 2009

Bristol refuse workers strike

"We don't want to go on strike, but you've got to stand up for your rights" explained one of the striking refuse collectors in Bristol to Socialist Party members on the picket line.

The workers were contracted out from Bristol City council to French firm Sita, whose main interests are profits. Unite, the union the 271 workers belong to, entered talks back in November for their 2007/08 pay award. "Maybe we were greedy" questioned the Unite official, by asking for 5% when inflation was only at 4.75%, yet Sita refused to even discuss it and offered only 2.75% - an insulting pay cut for the Sita workers.

Sita has agreed to three meetings since then, with no pay award forthcoming. The third meeting was after the workers balloted and decided to go for strike action. But only as long as the strike was called off.

The union immediately called off the strike, keen to sort out the dispute. After two hours of conversation, going round in circles with no mention of pay, the convenor realised this was just a ploy to get the rubbish collected that day and left.

The workers aren't giving up though. With a rolling strike on Friday 29 May and Monday 1 June, with only a couple of workers crossing their picket lines at the two main depots in Bristol, they are hopeful. "We need to get our message to the general public," the convenor explained on the picket line. They certainly did this on Friday with almost 300 workers descending on the Council House, demanding that the council sits up and take notice.

Although the work is contracted out to Sita, the council pays for the service and could easily take the service back in-house. Yet this is part of the broader programme to privatise as many of the public services as possible, making massive profits for big business, but with continual cuts in wages and conditions for the workers and year on year increases in council taxes for the public to pay for the companies.

  • Messages of support can be sent to the striking workers via Pam Jennings, Bristol Unite, Transport House, Victoria Street, Bristol, BS1 6AY.
  • Sheila Caffrey

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    In The Socialist 5 June 2009:

    Action to defend union rights

    Visteon pensioners battle on

    Vauxhall jobs threat - unions must organise a fightback


    Workplace news and analysis

    Royal Mail sell-off - Time for action!

    Fast news

    Tube workers vote to strike

    Bristol refuse workers strike

    Battling against the blacklist

    Glasgow care workers' success


    Socialist Party election campaign

    Prepare now for next election challenge

    European elections: Putting forward a workers' alternative

    A Question Time carve up

    Challenge these disgraced MPs

    A Parliament of celebrities and a speaker of integrity


    Youth

    Aston University socialists fight for student democracy

    Sussex University: Save Linguistics campaign

    Socialist youth conference and protest

    Youth Fight for Jobs: Fortnight of action 27 June to 10 July


    Socialist Party feature

    NATO anniversary: 60 years of aggression and terror


    Socialist Party review

    The Frock-Coated Communist: the revolutionary life of Friedrich Engels


    Marxist analysis: history

    Tiananmen Square 1989: Counter-revolution crushes China's democracy movement


     

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