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Brighton bin workers score quick victory
"Don't mess with the best!" Is what one worker quipped to sellers of The Socialist the morning that the Brighton bin workers returned to work after less than two days of solid strike action. Brighton and Hove city council had capitulated almost immediately.
The council had told workers that they faced pay cuts of up to £8,000 per year! Some nonsense about the council's 'moral duty' to ensure equal pay across council employees was the excuse quoted in the local press.
Unsurprisingly, the result was a determined struggle against this, beginning on 9 November with a five-day strike.
The picket line was some 60-70 workers strong, spirits were high, with one worker commenting: "I'll be on this picket from 6am to 5pm every day and for as long as it takes."
By the end of that Monday the council made an offer. The details of the offer clearly show that the council was just out to try its penny-pinching luck!
The council has proposed that the bin workers will be classified as 'skilled' instead of 'unskilled', meaning higher pay grades. The practical outcome is that 97% of the workers will not lose a penny of pay.
At a mass meeting in the depot canteen the following day, the workers agreed to accept this and suspend strike action for three weeks whilst negotiations over the remaining 3% of workers continued.
This is fantastic news for the vast majority of workers. It clearly demonstrates that militancy pays.
Although the question of why, if the solution was so straightforward, the council felt the need to put 300 workers and their families through all this worry and aggro is something known only to the New Labour councillors and their fat cat chief executive!
Thirty workers, on protected pay, do stand to lose out. This seems to be the council's fault as well - the result of past privatisations, TUPE agreements and other issues.
However, to get 97% of workers' demands met after only one day of strike action shows that when workers are united and determined, vicious attacks can be turned back.
In The Socialist 18 November 2009:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Workplace news and analysis