Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1005/27777
Kirklees bin workers' strike forces management back
Mike Forster, Huddersfield Socialist Party
The threatened all-out strike of Kirklees bin workers has been averted. The week-long strike at the start of July ended without an agreement being reached and Unison announced their intention to call all-out action if the dispute wasn't settled.
The primary issue was management bullying and racism, as they tried to manage shrinking budgets by pushing the workers harder and harder. This included pushing the workers to overload wagons beyond the legal limit as rounds were expanded, denying time off for hospital appointments for a worker who had cancer and refusing other time to take their leave entitlement. Complaints and grievances were ignored - in fact one of the stewards was suspended for bringing a complaint!
The first July strike was solid among Unison members, but unfortunately the handful of GMB members were escorted across the picket lines by their union officials. Likewise, some Unite members continued working - but a significant number refused to.
Management had clearly hoped to break the strike using the other minority unions. When this ploy backfired, and further action was announced, management agreed to more talks. The new offer was accepted unanimously.
It includes recruiting ten more permanent drivers with two new rounds and a further 30 agency staff to cover for leave and sickness. Crucially two of the more hardline managers have been removed from the workplace.
Yet again, the threat of strike action has forced management to climb down. The agreement will be kept under close review as the ballot will remain live for the next few months. Any backtracking by management will be met with resumed strikes.
Socialist Party members had decided not to wait for the announced all-out strike and successfully proposed that the trade union council organise a public meeting on 23 July to launch a 'Bin Workers Support Group'. Speakers included reps from Mid Yorkshire Unison, who also recently voted to take strike action against privatisation, and the hospital campaign Hands Off HRI.
Anger was directed at the Labour council, whose leader has announced that the strike was politically motivated, and which had taken management's side in the talks. This betrayal has not gone unnoticed and further pressure is being applied to the Labour group and party activists to censure the council for refusing to support a critical dispute.
In The Socialist 8 August 2018:
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