Thurrock refuse workers voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action with a 90.7% yes vote in the industrial action ballot with a 73.5% turnout. The Unite the Union members are furious at Thurrock Council’s assault on wages despite having worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to help keep essential services running.
The Tory-run council intends to slash salaries by between £1,000 to £4,000 a year. During the first wave of the pandemic, crews were forced to work with insufficient protection and threatened with disciplinary action if they refused to go on the rounds. One worker stated: “They are bullying us into being out there are risk”.
Despite receiving plaudits and applause from appreciative residents, key workers are now being singled out for pay cuts by the Council. The GMB union have also expressed their anger about a “huge brutal pay cut” on care workers who have been visiting borough homes for the sick and elderly right through the pandemic. These cuts will see the lowest-paid workers in Thurrock Council face extreme difficulties trying to make end meets.
The Council attempted to gaslight workers and the public by claiming their fears are based on “inaccurate statements and speculation”. However, an internal report released by Unite the Union detailed the reductions to allowances and shift changes that are being proposed.
Thurrock Council recently raised the council tax by 5% despite cutting weekly bin collections and attacking the pay and condition of council workers. On March 18th, Tory councillor Luke Spillman boasted that Thurrock Council are £90 million in profit – so why are they cutting the wages of our key workers?
A Unite regional organiser summed up the mood of council workers: “This dispute is a line in the sand for us. If we accept this sort of thing now then we’re committing ourselves to years of attacks on our livelihoods.”
This dispute is just the thin end of the wedge. It is essential that all Labour members and trade unionists rally support for the bin workers in our communities and workplaces.
You can access regular information and updates on the dispute on the Facebook page Justice for Refuse Workers & Cleaners. The Thurrock and Basildon Heckler have also produced an A4 solidarity poster that can be downloaded HERE. We would encourage all our readers to print and share. Victory to our Key Workers!