The Socialist 28 October 2009 |
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Leeds bin strike: 92% vote to reject council's 'final' offer
Striking bin collection crews in Leeds overwhelmingly voted to reject the council's 'final' offer at last week's mass meeting, which could see the dispute over equal pay run until Christmas and beyond.
A Leeds Unison steward
Under the 'deal' put forward to GMB and Unison members, the £5,000-£6,000 they would be losing from the single status agreement would be vastly reduced, but different crews would fare better than others.
The deal also meant that these reduced cuts would be tied to increased productivity.
Pickets have told us that they are not work-shy but the targets set are impossible. Emptying each bin would have to take 70 seconds.
Management are so confident that they are reachable, they should go on the round and show them how to get the job done!
Unison regional organiser Tony Pearson said in the Yorkshire Evening Post: "The offer includes an expectation that staff will increase the number of bins they empty per hour from 190 to 220.
"The people who do this job say that target is physically impossible to achieve and so the staff would automatically lose £4,500 a year."
What is significant about the 'final offer' and its rejection is that the bin men have the upper hand now to win this strike.
Firstly, it was the council that initiated the talks after publicly refusing to do so until the crews went back to work, and secondly, they offered to vastly reduce the pay cuts albeit tied to increased productivity, which shows the money is there, especially when the cost of hiring scab labour from private agencies is taken into account.
There were loud cheers when the ballot result was read out and now on week eight the mood on the picket line is still defiant.
Many of us too are bracing ourselves as to how budget cuts will affect us, especially when the council wants to reduce its workforce by 20%.
And there are 1,400 more workers who are set to lose out under the single status agreement.
Wherever jobs, pay, conditions and services are threatened we need to be balloting our members for strike action.
This will give confidence to and buoy our striking bin workers and increase the likelihood of a victory for all of us.