Another group of bin workers just won a pay rise

Unite latest logo which says unite for a workers economy

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.

Council problems

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.

Read on...

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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  • Show Comments
    1. Generally speaking, the more we humans make, all the more we want — nay, need — to make next time. And when in corporate-CEO form, we typically become far, far greedier.

      But, really, there must be a point at which the status quo — where already large corporate profits are maintained or increased while many people are denied even basic shelter/income — can/will end up hurting big business’s own monetary interests. I can imagine that a healthy, strong and large consumer base — and not just very wealthy consumers — are needed.

      Or could it be that, generally speaking, the unlimited profit objective/nature is somehow irresistible, including the willingness to simultaneously allow an already squeezed consumer base to continue so — or even squeezed further?

      When it comes to unhindered capitalism, I can see corporate CEOs shrugging their shoulders and defensively saying that their job is to protect shareholders’ bottom-line interests. The shareholders meanwhile shrug their shoulders while defensively stating that they just collect the dividends and that the CEOs are the ones to make the moral and/or ethical decisions.

      Human existence may still be basically analogous to a cafeteria lineup consisting of diversely societally represented people, all adamantly arguing over which identifiable person should be at the front and, conversely, at the back of the line. Many of them further fight over to whom amongst them should go the last piece of quality pie and how much they should have to pay for it — all the while the interstellar spaceship on which they’re all permanently confined, owned and operated by (besides the wealthiest passengers) the fossil fuel industry, is on fire and toxifying at locations not normally investigated.

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