Reuben Bard-Rosenberg speaks with striking worker about the action and how we can support it
Refuse and cleansing workers in Bexley are going on strike against poverty pay. As things stand, they're getting paid £9 an hour for going out in the cold and dark at 4am to perform a vital service and they have very much had enough - £4 an hour less than workers in similar jobs are getting in neighbouring Greenwich.
A couple of weeks back a whopping 93% of them voted for strike action. Unite have taken the decision to target not just Serco but also the council who ultimately are responsible for the conditions under which rubbish gets collected.
I spoke to Damien, one of the workers who is leading the strike, about what's been happening.
We don't often see 93% per cent of people voting for strike action. What's behind it?
Support is so strong now that we have guys like Willie and Ruth (Unite Organisers) coming to the yard: we have never had that before. And also the members have had enough of the divide in wages, poor/bullying management. Alot's improved with the union at the yard and the members can see the big change.
How have Serco responded to the industrial action?
I don’t think that Serco realise just how big the union has become over the past few months and that the members are strong enough now to stick together. Not much has been said, but it says a lot when they are taking down our leaflets so members can’t see them - but I just replace them.
Do you think the councillors can be pushed to do the right thing?
I hope the councillors do the right thing and force Serco into paying us a good wage for a hard day’s work. I’m sure if we have enough support from the residents it will help in forcing them to act.
What's the best way that people who aren't in the workforce can support the strike?
I would like to say that if people who aren't in the workforce want to try and help in any way they can contact the council in support or even contact Serco directly and voice their opinions. I’m sure this would happen, especially if residents of the local area don’t see their streets cleaned or bins emptied.
Last week I joined a group of people who were going into the wards of Tory councillors to explain why their rubbish wasn't getting collected. Amongst our group was a young sociologist who'd been on strike that day, a retired teacher and many others. This is the sort of class solidarity we need.
Do get in touch with the Tory councillors to let them know what you think of their exploitative policies. They look like a distinctly boring and bellendulous bunch of individuals.
And let's raise our fists to the workers who will be going on strike. They are fighting for us all.
Reuben Bard-Rosenberg is a socialist activist and radical folk music promoter.