Bin workers in Somerset just declared victory in an ongoing dispute with a council. They won a pay rise without needing to strike. It follows on from Coventry bin workers’ victory – and shows that when people are united, gains can be made. But, the situation also displays the anti-worker attitude of some councils.
Victory for bin workers (again)
Bath and North East Somerset council employs the bin workers at depots in Ashmead Road and Midland Road in Keynsham. Amid the so-called cost of living crisis, the council was only offering the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) recommended £1,925 flat-rate pay rise. So, Unite stepped in and negotiated with the council. It ended with the local authority offering workers a 10% pay rise on top of the LGA increase. All this was without a strike.
As Unite regional officer Andy Worth said:
Due to the strength of union membership within the workforce, waste services workers were able to go through the industrial action process to trigger negotiations. Following successful talks under the auspices of the conciliation service ACAS, Unite was able to secure a regrade of all waste service employees, including a 10 per cent increase for loaders and LGV drivers.
This is not the first time a union has had to support this council’s workers. In 2016, workers took strike action over pay with Bath and North East Somerset council’s waste contractor, Kier. This action also reached a settlement. Just this year, workers for another contractor in North Somerset also won a pay deal after agreeing to strike.
Away from Somerset, and recently Coventry bin workers won a pay rise after a long industrial dispute. As Canary Amplify participant Karen Burns wrote:
The dispute started on the 31 January 2022, and took six months to resolve.
During the industrial action, Labour-run Coventry council brought in scab workers to cover the striking one’s jobs. But eventually, the council backed-down and workers got the pay rise they were fighting for. Meanwhile, in Somerset council bosses argue over paying staff fairly while one of them has been pocketing over £400,000 a year in income.
Politicians not to be trusted
As Burns wrote, central to the Coventry workers’ victory was solidarity. She noted that:
It is about solidarity between working-class people… bin drivers in Trafford, Manchester had managed to win their dispute and achieved a higher rate of pay. This had ultimately spurred Coventry bin drivers on and made them more determined to fight for what they knew they deserved.
But moreover, Burns said:
The drivers’ dispute highlights a real disconnect between party politics and the lived experiences of the voting public. Coventry Labour council’s union-busting stance shows where politics wants to take workers’ rights.
The situation in Somerset is similar. Except here, Lib Dem-run Bath and North Somerset council backed down before workers had to strike.
It shows that firstly, the power of working-class people united cannot be underestimated. The victories also remind us that unscrupulous bosses who make a personal killing while mistreating their staff should not be tolerated. Further, it also shows that politicians, especially Labour ones, cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the rest of us either.
Featured image via Unite the Union – YouTube
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