Striking refuse workers in Brighton and Hove

Bins1Brighton and Hove refuse workers started a week-long strike on Friday (14 June) to defend their wages against a cut of up to £4000 as a result of a pay review by the Council. I am perplexed by this.

The refuse collectors have been working to rule over the past few weeks and the uncollected rubbish is noticeable (see below). Coastal towns suffer particularly as the gulls are constantly scavenging. But that is not for the refuse workers who, by definition, earn relatively low wages for their ‘unskilled’ but essential work.

What is going on? It is clear that the Council sought to bust the strike using agency workers. The leader of theRubbish_June2013 Council – a Green – has withdrawn this threat after protests within and without of his party – including Brighton’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas. At first, I thought the strike was purely about austerity cuts – managing a budget being squeezed by declining Central Government grants and limited scope for local tax raising. But seemingly not. It is about ‘equality’. As one observer put it, the policy that led to the cut was “a noble attempt to equalise pay between male and female staff leading to up to £95 a week income reductions for the (largely male) CityClean workers” (Josiah Mortimer, http://tinyurl.com/kv6bea4). Equalising pay down is neither progressive nor right.

The GMB union, which represents the refuse workers, reports the origins of the strike thus: “The dispute began in January when the Council’s Green Party leader, Jason Kitcat, gave full authority to its £150,000 Chief Executive, Penny Thompson, to negotiate and implement a revised pay and allowances package without any recourse to councillors. This led to a final offer being made in April, which included cuts of up to £4,000 a head from some of the council’s lowest paid employees.” (See more at: http://union-news.co.uk/2013/06/brightons-bin-men-begin-week-long-strike/#sthash.2YLfD9oB.dpuf).

Bins2In my small way, I want to lend my support to the refuse workers. I am a former member of the Greens in Brighton and Hove. I left the party on a point of principle regarding Caroline Lucas’s nomination as the candidate for the parliamentary seat of Brighton Pavilion which she went on to win. In light of these events, I am pleased to see her on the picket line and in solidarity.

Donations  to the fighting fund can be made from the following link: http://www.gmb-southern.org.uk/no-to-green-cuts-at-brighton-hove-city-council/

Pictures:
http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/16640

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