Thurrock refuse workers strike escalates
Dave Murray, Essex Socialist Party
From 6am on Monday 10 May, Unite members working for the refuse service in the Borough of Thurrock escalated their strike, moving from a position where they withdrew their labour at 9am, to full-time strike action for the next three weeks. The employer has had to inform residents that there will be no refuse collections for the duration of the strike.
The council has rewarded these workers' loyalty and dedication to the community during the pandemic with a proposed pay cut - moving to abolish anti-social hours payments, potentially leaving workers thousands of pounds out of pocket annually. These proposals are also being applied to street cleansing, social services and care workers in the borough, with similar disastrous results if they are allowed to stick.
Morale on the picket line is extremely high. Strikers realise that they are holding the line for refuse workers around the country, and also for workers in care and other services in their own authority.
Tory gains in the recent local elections mean that it's a straight fight between a well-organised workforce and a hostile but not particularly astute right-wing council. During recent talks, the Tories had the bright idea of antagonising the refuse workers further by announcing new attacks on overtime and vehicle maintenance agreements that were made when the council took the refuse service back in-house.
By introducing new issues they hope to make it difficult to extend the action without a new ballot. Speaking to workers on the picket line, it seems to me that this is a miscalculation as the feeling is strong for striking as long as it takes. A new ballot would return a big majority for further action.
After only two days, mountains of rubbish are piling up at the drop-off points the council has arranged in place of the house-to-house collections. Unite's compliance team has been leafleting around the estates and is getting widespread support from the public.
A hardship fund has been set up for workers whose normal pay is not fully covered by strike pay rules. Already sizeable donations from trade union and labour movement bodies are coming in.
- Hardship fund donations to: Unite 1/1152 Sort code 60-83-01 Account 20216557
In The Socialist 12 May 2021: