Hippy styled waste management in Doncaster has got workers’ resistance to look forward to, reports Mick Wattam
Suez Sita, an international company who like to portray themselves as a progressive, environmentally friendly organisation have recently concluded negotiations with Doncaster council to continue their contract to provide the local refuse collection service until 2025.
Their Facebook page banner reads ’ready for the resource revolution’ and the page is littered with posts reminding us to recycle our everyday waste where we can, amongst other articles of a more serious nature they re-post with which they try to convince us that they are deeply concerned about our environment and are actively engaged in a process to change the way we deal with waste.
Shortly after regaining the contract, Suez announced their intention to make drastic cuts to the previous level of service, reducing the operation from a 5-day cycle to 4-days, and almost halving the workforce from 250 with 112 redundancies by October. On top of this, a pay offer of 2% reliant on the removal of overtime payments would leave most employees with no pay rise at all in real terms.
Surely these are not the actions of a company which in any way cares about society beyond delivering an increased bonus to their shareholders. Their striving to portray themselves as in the game to create a better world is merely a marketing ploy which is increasingly common amongst large corporations.
The reorganisation of Doncaster’s bin collections, if Suez get their way, will undoubtedly result in dirtier streets, as pointed out by Unite the Union, who organise the majority of the workers involved. Fly tipping will increase as bin collections are reduced, our streets will be dirtier, all of which will be a false economy as the bill for dealing with this extra clean-up work will land on the council.
Unite have balloted their members over the derisory pay offer, winning 89% in favour of strike action which will begin on Wednesday 23 August until Sunday 27 August. This will be followed by a second strike beginning on Saturday 2 September to Wednesday 6 September.
A separate ballot is being organised against the redundancies and they have also quite rightly called for Doncaster Council to take back the service in-house, with a petition asking people to support this call.
It is hard to believe that Doncaster Council were not aware of Suez’s intentions to make redundancies and reduce the service to one which quite frankly will not be adequate.
In the May elections this year the Labour Party increased its majority of councillors and Ros Jones was re-elected as mayor with an increased vote. No doubt this happened because of the re-emergence of Labour as a real opposition to the Tories, who are despised locally because of their destruction of our town’s industrial heritage during the 1980s.
UKIP had recently threatened Labour’s dominance following on from a brief period when the right wing Peter Davies of the English Democrats managed to be elected mayor, due to years of decay under successive Labour councils.
That has now changed as people are putting their faith in a Corbyn-led government which cannot come soon enough, but if Labour councils continue to act as a conduit for Tory cuts it could undermine any hope of a transformative Labour government taking power.
This dilemma could easily be solved if Labour members and supporters, including elected councillors, joined with anti-austerity campaigners in the People’s Assembly and took the fight against the Tories onto the streets.
There is a significant increase in localised strike action being called against cuts across the UK, and some disputes such as the SOAS cleaners have even seen wins for our side.
To capitalise on this, and build confidence for further broader action we must come together in a united movement against austerity and for the end of this Tory government which is still destroying services including education and the NHS even though they have lost the support of the people.
To put our faith in the imminent election of a radical Labour government and fail to act against current cuts is irresponsible to say the least.
Trade unionists and socialists within Labour may pin their hopes on winning support for socialist policies at the Labour conference this autumn but the right wing are prepared to fight all the way to derail the left and are prepared to wreck the Labour party if they don’t get their way.
There has to be a turn to more participatory action, involving giving maximum support to those already fighting back and making the demonstration in Manchester at the Tory party conference so big that it is obvious they are incapable of leading the country for a full term without strong opposition. Quite literally we have to force them into calling an election before it is too late and we’ve lost our right to live any kind of decent lives.
For that to happen, Labour members, councillors and trade unionists need to commit to do all they can to oppose austerity and be part of an active campaign against it.
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