Photo: SP
Photo: SP

Reinstate Tom Watkins!

Jonathan Golding, Cardiff East Socialist Party

On 29 February, members of Cardiff Socialist Party and Trades Council joined workers from the waste management department and members of Unite the Union to lobby the council cabinet for the reinstatement of Tom Watkins, a Unite rep of 15 years. Tom had served for 33 years at Cardiff Council in the street cleansing department, but was fired last July.

His ‘offence’ is trivial, warranting a verbal warning at most. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that he was sacked because he is a good union rep. Cardiff bin workers have been taking bold strike action against the Labour council over pay and cuts.

Tom has always taken his job seriously and had an unblemished record. He had twice reported a damaged bin, but when nothing was done, used his own tool to repair the bin. Furthermore, he was accused of insubordination for not following an order from a supervisor, even though the supervisor admitted that Tom might not have heard him. And that’s it!

Tom was sacked by a management who, we are told, have themselves committed greater breaches, and have not been subject to any disciplinary action. Tom’s ‘mistake’ was in having a conscientious approach to his job. The union can only conclude that he has been victimised as a good rep.  His sacking is yet another example of anti-union actions by Cardiff Council.

The campaign demands that councillors intervene with management to secure Tom’s reinstatement and, in so doing, demonstrate their support for the principles of natural justice and trade union rights. To do nothing would be to accept the right of the managers to act in a callous, anti-trade union manner against their workers.

Tom’s sacking has echoes of the Post Office scandal, when Post Office managers thought that they could destroy people’s lives with impunity. The campaign will continue with a lobby of the next full council meeting in March.