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Hackney Workers Fight 'Single Status'
DRAMATIC CONFRONTATIONS took place last week as Hackney refuse workers began a four-day strike against big pay cuts being imposed by the council under the guise of 'single status'.
Clare Doyle, Hackney Socialist Party
Soon after 6am on 22 January, pickets from Millfields depot toured the borough looking for the heavy vehicles that had been spirited away from their depot.
Some sweepers' carts were found at a yard belonging to McGraths demolition firm. Then 20 or so refuse vehicles were found in a private depot owned by another firm - Docklands.
Fifty or sixty strikers massed at the gate and waited for the vehicles to come out. A few police looked nervously on. When the vehicles began to appear out of the darkness, they were jeered at by the strikers. Attempts were made to stop them to talk to the strike-breakers.
On at least one occasion they succeeded and the police moved in to warn the strikers off. All the strikers said they were on a demonstration, not a picket. Their numbers and determination to make their views heard won the day.
The next day, at the same depot, the police got better organised. They even cordoned off the lane while the scab teams drove their vehicles full speed out of the depot.
The scabs are management and agency staff, many of whom have had no training or experience. Driving a big vehicle or working near the crushers at the back is hazardous. It will be a miracle if no-one is seriously hurt in the course of this attempt to break the unions' strength.
Far too many agency staff are already being employed to try and break the strike. The way to pursue the fight against 'single status' is to build solidarity of all workers.
Management must be told that no trade union member is prepared to work alongside scabs. All agency staff should either agree to join a union and refuse to work during strike days or be shown the door.
If union workers who have now sacrificed more than a week's pay, refuse to work with scabs, they should have the full backing of their unions and the whole council workforce.
Many pickets are angry that part of their union dues goes to finance the party whose government is allowing all these attacks on the working class.
"Tony Blair is the bastard son Thatcher always wanted" one striker at Marshgate Lane told the socialist, to general agreement of everyone around him. "We shouldn't pay any levies to the Labour Party", he added.
Some strikers commented to the UNISON secretary Angelika Teweleit: "If a new mass workers' party was launched, we'd all join."
Workers' anger against both the employer and the management has reached boiling point.
To ensure no compromise, these workers should have full control not only over tactics during future strike days but also over decisions on what deal is finally acceptable.
In The Socialist 31 January 2004:
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