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Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/14826

Posted on 5 July 2012 at 16:49 GMT

Protesting outside Sova northern area office in Sheffield on July 4th 2012, photo Alistair Tice

Protesting outside Sova northern area office in Sheffield on July 4th 2012, photo Alistair Tice   (Click to enlarge)

Sheffield recycling workers win victory against sackings

The Sova recycling workers in Sheffield, members of the GMB union, have won the reinstatement of their six sacked colleagues.

After 27 days of strike action, the strike has been suspended pending further negotiations, particularly relating to working hours and pay.

A new bonus scheme is to be trialed, which promises workers up to 2 an hour wage increase across the board.

The business model and opening hours for recycling will be reviewed and this will begin with a full scrutiny board meeting with Sheffield council on 19 July.

Due to privatisation and subcontracting, there are three tiers of management - the council, Veolia and Sova; 10 managers overseeing just 28 operatives. Re-design of the business model could release funding for more opening hours.

And the GMB will be at the forefront of a new strategy to develop a green waste service in partnership with the council.

The council's preferred model will be a cooperative. It is envisaged by the GMB that this has the potential to increase opening hours and recycling services significantly.

Not all the strikers voted to suspend the action. Several, including the two shop stewards, felt that the indefinite strike action was really beginning to bite, especially as it was being supported by direct action being taken by Socialist Party members and other strike supporters (see below).

Indeed, neighbouring Barnsley council has just introduced ID checks to stop Sheffielders dumping their rubbish over the border!

However, the reinstatement of all the workers made redundant and other concessions represent a real victory for the determination and solidarity of a small group of workers who only recently joined a union and have never been on strike before.

No doubt they will remain vigilant and if the council does not deliver in the negotiations over the next three weeks then the strike could be back on.

Socialist Party members have been proud to actively support the strikers and will continue to campaign against council cuts and the privatisation rip-off.

Alistair Tice

Protest action on 4 July

"What sort of charity sacks low-paid workers?" and "What sort of charity uses 'vulnerable' people as strike-breakers?" Those were the questions on placards and in writing that Socialist Party protesters asked of Sova at their Northern Area office in Sheffield on 4 July.

Sova is a charity that is supposed to help 'vulnerable' people into work. Its trading arm, Sova Recycling Ltd, is the subcontractor running Sheffield's privatised recycling sites, that has made cuts in jobs, hours and pay, leading to an all-out strike by the workers.

In a letter to Sova's chief executive, we asked how charitable it is for Sova to be sacking workers and placing vunerable people in the position of acting as strike-breakers by employing them at the sites during an official industrial dispute. Indeed, workers fear that the long term aim is to replace most of the workers with voluntary or cheap labour, given Sova's work programme with A4e, G4S and Serco!

We then marched to the town hall where the GMB presented over 4,000 signatures and 900 individual letters opposing the council cuts in recycling services.

Sheffield Socialist Party

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 5 July 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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