The strike carries on…

We present a report and some thoughts from the frontline of the environmental services workers strike in protest at Thurrock Council’s assault on their pay and terms and conditions of employment

This is from the Basildon Socialist Party Facebook page


‘The Thurrock bin workers’ strike has just [finished] it’s third week even more solidly than the first. Spirits are high and the workforce is determined to win. The issue is the proposal to do away with anti-social hours payments which will cut pay by up to £4,000 for a loader and more for drivers.

The implications for refuse workers in other boroughs, for care workers and others who depend on these extra and enhanced payments to make half-decent wage, are extremely serious.

GMB Thurrock are also entering into dispute with this employers on the same issue.

Thurrock’s Tory Council, [are insisting] that cuts to unsocial hours payments are going to happen. This might have something to do with the alleged losses that the council has made in its speculative investments in the “green energy” sector- which the council was in court recently trying to keep secret.

Whatever the reason, the employers current stance and tactics reflects weakness, with petty measures such as threats to fine pickets for dropping cigarette ends (actually everyone is very careful not to litter) and on 19 April sending for a police officer to somewhat sheepishly remind organisers of the need to socially distance. Obviously, such distancing does not apply when workers are travelling in the cabs of the refuse vehicles four at a time.

The refuse workers union, Unite, is due to sit down with the employers this week. If the bosses know what is good for them they will cave in and do the right thing by these workers.

If they don’t, notice has been given that the strike will escalate from the 10 may, with action starting at 6 am rather than 9 am, which will lead to a complete shutdown of refuse collections in the borough.

The current partial action has already led to pilling up of rubbish on the streets, and the union will be doing mass leafletting to keep community support for the strike high.

The union is opening up a hardship fund for drivers who will be dropping £18 a day when the strike goes all out. The whole labour movement needs to get behind this dispute.’

Dave Murray, Essex Socialist Party.

This is from the Thurrock Labour Left Facebook page

The Big Question, is the state and its forces here for its citizens, or to protect those who would exploit them? Brendan Behan once wrote I’m yet to see a policeman who doesn’t make a bad situation worse. A little harsh perhaps, I doubt Brendan meant it literally as there are situations which the police handle reasonably well. Sadly for many citizens these are few and far between.

For example where I live refuse collectors went on strike after the Tory led council wanted to cut their pay and conditions. These workers set up a vibrant picket line on an industrial estate near their depot. There is a lot of waving of Unite union flags and beating of drums as passing motorists honk their horns. Apart from good natured banter, they are not impinging on or stopping anyone from going about their business and due to their discipline and determination they are gaining ever more traction within the borough.

So where is this leading? This strike is a Civil matter as no laws are being broken and I find it worrying that the police keep visiting the picket line, one of the striking workers put this into perspective:

“Yesterday Thurrock Council threatened us with an ASBO. Today the police are back visiting the depot. It’s funny, how in a borough with rising crime and anti-social behaviour the council once again wants to concentrate on legal strike action in an industrial estates by local key workers. Thurrock Council needs to stop the vindictive nonsense, stop wasting police time and work with us to bring this dispute to a satisfactory end for everyone.”

There is a pattern here, whether it’s striking workers fighting for their jobs, pay and conditions, environmental activists demonstrating to save the planet, black youngsters who don’t deserve to be stopped and searched when they’re going about their lawful business, or women protesting when a young woman is murdered by a member of London’s metropolitan police. All have found themselves at the mercy of the police.

The police like to portray themselves as an organisation which helps elderly ladies across the road and takes dangerous criminals off the streets, but it’s pretty clear they are far more than this. They are the front-line bulwark which keeps the ruling classes in power. As far as the police are concerned, when push comes to shove, those who don’t support the status quo become the enemy within.

We ignore this fact at our own peril.

Mick Hall.

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