Kieran Crowe reports from a lively picket line of bin workers at Coventry Whitley depot
For Coventry bin workers, Thursday was the second day this week, but day five overall, of a dispute that is likely to be a long one. Braving sub-zero temperature, a strong turn-out of 20-odd Unite members had turned up for the early shift picket line at their depot this morning, and morale was pretty strong.
The media has presented the dispute as being a simple demand for more pay and the Coventry City Council has made completely misleading claims about both this and the amount the bin workers are paid. Speaking to the pickets, however, it was clear that porkies about pay are barely the start of it. The complete terms and conditions of the workforce are under attack from the Labour council. One rep said to me “It’s a full-blown attack on the union.”, involving a loss of annual leave (including Christmas!) and reductions to enhanced conditions for long serving staff.
Anger at the council is very real: two-thirds of the council’s ruling Labour group are notional Unite members, not one of whom has made any attempt to come up with a negotiated solution.
“This is not our Labour movement working,” said rep Pete, “when it’s acting against its own people.”
Unite has prepared for the strike to continue for several days per week for some months, but with the council being completely intransigent in their demands to keep pay down and increase working time and workload, the situation may well escalate even further, and all-out strike is not ruled out.
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