Council staff take strike action over pay plan

brighton occupationMuch like Herefordshire’s Tory-controlled council are imposing a raft of cuts here, so the Green Party-controlled Brighton & Hove City Council are doing the same down there.

But in Brighton they are fighting back.

Since Wednesday refuse workers have taken unofficial strike action and occupied the canteen at their depot in response to council pay plans that could see some lose as much as £4,000 a year.

As the dispute closes on its third day bins remain uncollected with rubbish piling high in the streets.

The refuse workers have the support of their union, with the GMB this morning beginning the process of balloting hundreds of binmen and women for official strike action.

Though the workers have seemed mostly content with their union’s response there was also a predominant feeling that waiting is futile.

Refuse collector Runa explained that the wildcat action is to “show the management that we’re not scared, and that we are willing to do whatever it takes”.

Heidi, a street cleaner in the city, was clear that her and her colleagues “want to strike now, and we’re not going to back down”.

She went on, “I can see it being a long strike, we’re not going to give in, us workers, not this time”.

The ruling Green Party – in partnership with their Tory counterparts – are pushing a ‘pay modernisation’ agenda, which could result in the council sacking all staff facing the proposed changes and re-employing them on a worse contract if they refuse to accept the new terms.

There is anger at the Green Party, who have voted for cuts despite running on a platform opposed to all cuts. One street cleaner labeled the Greens “fucking Tories on bikes”, to mass cheers from colleagues.

Brighton shows that, when in power, the Greens are really no different to the other parties.

In 2009, the last time these staff members faced an assault on their conditions, sustained strike action was effective and the council leadership backed down. The precedent has been set that staff will fight and win and it is clear that prolonged action is on the table until proposals to cut staff pay are thrown away once and for all.

More than 300 low-paid workers will be hardest hit by the changes.

The council is expected to bring in scab labour on Monday to help clear the city’s rubbish.

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