Adam Harmsworth, Coventry Socialist Party
Rugby’s bin workers and street cleaners, members of Unite, have returned to work with a big win.
After a month of all-out strike action, they have won pay rises of up to 12% and are returning to work with a far larger union membership.
The workers opposed a measly 1.75% pay rise, which would be negligible against soaring inflation. Rugby’s strike was the latest in a series of vital struggles by bin workers, among other public sector workers, to keep their heads above water.
After shameless offers of debt advice and loans failed to persuade the workers not to ballot, Rugby’s Tory council published a statement on the strike, insisting they just couldn’t pay more.
The workers disagreed and they went on strike. They gained the confidence of more workers, and recruited them to the union.
On the first strike day, the council could barely staff any bin lorries – not that it mattered because the picket blocked the vehicles from leaving.
The strike had frequent visits from Coventry’s striking bin workers. They shared tactics, political perspectives, and food from the occasional picket line barbecue!
The confidence and unity of the strike was admirable, and was demonstrated as they rejected one pay offer because the loaders’ pay rise was still inadequate. The Tory council leader responded saying he wouldn’t agree to ‘frivolous’ spending!
Local authorities run by all the main parties are willing to see their workers go into poverty as they follow the government austerity line.
This strike’s success shows that when bosses tell you your demands aren’t possible, that’s not true and you can win them.
Hopefully, the victorious workers in Rugby and elsewhere will take that message down to the TUC demo on 18 June. Their victory will inspire more workers to fight, and help build towards the mass co-ordinated strike action we need to take on the Tory government.