Bins, photo Ivor Ibrahamsen (Creative Commons)

Bins, photo Ivor Ibrahamsen (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Michaela Bower, Huddersfield Socialist Party

50 bin workers, union members and supporters came together for a march on 6 July from the waste depot to Huddersfield Town Hall in protest against bullying and racism by management, and a refusal to allow bin workers to take leave for holidays and medical appointments.

They then held a rally outside with speakers including Angie Waller from Unison and Mike Forster, secretary of the Huddersfield Socialist Party.

Kirklees bin workers walked out from 3-9 July after voting unanimously for industrial action after talks with the council collapsed, and the mood on the picket lines was strong.

With a lack of recruitment of new workers, the current workers have been struggling to keep up with the rounds, especially with 8,000 of a planned 30,000 new homes built in Kirklees in the last few years. Kirklees Council did make an offer before the strike of additional agency staff. However the workforce know that what is needed is guaranteed jobs with acceptable conditions, so this offer was rejected.

After the successful rally, the workers then held a meeting and voted overwhelmingly in support of an indefinite strike from 31 July should the council fail to meet their demands.

The bin workers reported that those who had been refused time off included an instance where a workers’ daughter was being taken to hospital after breaking her leg. The worker, like any concerned parent, wanted to go to the hospital to be with his daughter and comfort her, yet this was refused.

If the council dares to say there isn’t the money to hire new staff, then they will be reminded of the £1.6 million the council recently received as a bonus – for cutting their budgets!

Should the indefinite strike go ahead from 31 July, Huddersfield Socialist Party will be setting up a support group for the bin workers, working alongside the local trade union council, and taking in donations and running stalls to help support the striking workers.

This looks like it could be a hot summer of discontent in Huddersfield, unless Kirklees Council removes the bullying and racist managers, and invests money in the refuse services to allow workers to do their jobs properly and safely.