Adam Harmsworth, Coventry Socialist Party
After all the attacks and stunts this right-wing Labour council has pulled in the dispute, the drivers were half expecting this. The council has suspended one of the reps, Pete Randle, who also recently joined the Socialist Party, in a blatant act of trade union victimisation.
The suspension came just after drivers were told they would not be regraded from band five to band six, one of the ways the council could have paid up a decent wage. It also happened just before drivers’ ballot slips arrived to ballot for another three months of strike action – which the workers voted 94% in favour of. It couldn’t be clearer that this suspension has a political motivation to bring down workers’ morale and try showing them who is in charge.
That hasn’t worked. The next day, the drivers marched to the council offices to protest the suspension and restate their demands. They were joined by Onay Kasab, Unite’s lead for local government, who is now personally involved in the dispute. He called on the council to quit scabbing, to lift Pete’s suspension, and to end the dispute by paying the drivers what they ask for.
He brought solidarity greetings from general secretary Sharon Graham and pledged full support from the national union, ending with: “We will win by whatever means necessary!”
The workers are fully behind their rep. They refuse to accept this victimisation and want Pete reinstated before any talks continue.
The drivers are now building for a protest on the 26 March, which Sharon will be attending. The Labour council, backed to the hilt by Starmer’s Labour Party, is trying to smash the union and the principled support from its leadership. They want to put workers in their place and have us accept the cost-of-living crisis.
One determined workforce defeating a stubborn council could inspire more workers to fight back, and help rebuild industrial militancy. That’s what bosses are afraid of, and that’s why the union movement has to rally behind these drivers.