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6 May 2015
Barking and Dagenham bin workers strike
Pete Mason, Barking TUSC and Barking & Dagenham Socialist Party
The Barking and Dagenham bin workers struck for eight days between 1st and 8 May. And more action appears likely if the council does not shift, workers say.
Barking TUSC candidate Joseph Mambuliya visited the picket line today and got a very friendly response from the striking workers, who are absolutely solid.
Cars and lorries constantly beep as they go past the GMB flags and workers in their hi-vis jackets. A serious battle has opened up, right at election time.
The 100 bin lorry drivers are fighting the robbery of £1,000 from their pay packets. Disgracefully the Labour council has used methods typical of bullying bosses to attempt to break the strike.
Instead of negotiating honestly with the union, management have been going over the heads of the GMB, which represents thousands of council workers.
The workers have received letters to their homes, signed by council leader Darren Rodwell, according to some reports.
The letter, said to have attempted to threaten them into signing away their overtime pay, was ignored by the drivers.
Senior management also held a meeting of the workers with the same intention. No wonder TUSC supporters get a good response.
More strike action planned
At the time of writing, if negotiations don't take place, the Barking and Dagenham Post has leaked GMB plans for another 22 days of strike action starting the week after the election - a 13 day strike followed by a 9 day strike. Meanwhile the bins are not being collected and rubbish is piling up.
If the council manages to break the GMB on this issue it will lead to wholesale cuts to the pay and conditions of the council workforce. The council has declared cuts of £54 million over the next three years.
The GMB has conceded the pay cut if the council will pay a one off £5,000. This has been misrepresented in the local press as the workers demanding £500,000, instead of being robbed of £1,000.
The council has offered a one-off £300, and upped it to £500. The numerically weaker union among the workers, Unite, with ten members affected but not balloted or on strike, under pressure from union officials has accepted the offer, much to the anger of the Unite workers affected.
One passed the picket line saying "we should be out alongside you". Unison has also been drawn in to the divide and rule tactics of the council, in order to try to isolate the GMB union, with little effect, since it was never part of the original strike action, which was entirely GMB led.
At an election hustings the Barking TUSC candidate's representative was the only one to mention, let alone defend, the striking workers, explaining their cause.
We explained that our candidate had visited the picket lines several times. Many of these GMB workers are sympathetic to TUSC, which is creating a path towards unseating the councillors that are presently such a hostile management for them.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 6 May 2015 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.
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