Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/807/18471
Hard loads - and a fightback - on the bins
By a bin worker
I first became a union rep for Unite about a year ago but I have worked for the council on the bins for two and a half years. My job as a loader is hard physical work and can be very stressful.
We tend to get quite a lot of stick from motorists - one tried to run me over! Some motorists feel we're holding them up and get frustrated but we try to work as fast as we can. I have also had angry residents shouting at me, sometimes because they are confused about recycling and which bins the different rubbish has to go into. These days our job is not just about taking rubbish away - we also have to know about recycling.
I became a union rep because my Unite branch encouraged me. The senior union officers in the branch are Socialist Party members. They helped me recruit and organise on the bins.
Most bin workers were in another union that was not doing anything about the issues that mattered. So when I started to speak to my workmates about doing things differently, people started to join Unite which is now the main union on the bins in my council.
I represent my workmates at disciplinary hearings. But as importantly, we are doing things together, as a group of workers and getting results. The bosses wanted to install cameras in the cabs in the lorries. They said it was for health and safety - but we feel safe in our cabs - it's outside the cab that there is a problem.
So we took the campaign to the workers. I didn't just complain to the bosses. Instead, I made sure that workers backed the campaign and I got the branch involved. We were not going to stand for being spied on by the bosses, while taking abuse from a minority of people when doing our jobs - something the bosses do nothing about.
The good news is that we won. We made sure the bosses knew we, as a group, would not stand for it. The cameras are now not going to be installed.
I joined the Socialist Party soon after becoming a rep. I saw how party members are serious about helping workers in work places like mine. I now go to party meetings and hope to get some of my workmates to come along too. The meetings definitely help me to deal with subjects that come up at work, like racism or cuts.
In The Socialist 16 April 2014:
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