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Hackney Council strike rally

Hackney Council strike rally. Photo: Kay

Hackney Council's attempt to break strike action by its workers was thwarted by a solid picket line that successfully blocked Millfields depot on the first day of strike, reports Carole Vincent

The strike by Hackney Council refuse, cleansing, building maintainance and passenger transport (SEND) workers, got off to a strong start on Monday morning. Management at the Millfields depot in E5, were taken completely by surprise when Unite the Union members and supporters, arrived at 4 am and stopped the carts leaving the depot for more than three hours in a dispute over pay. 

Supported by East London Unite Community members, vehicles failed to leave the depot as one manager known as Glen, became increasingly agitated that his predominantly agency worker crews could not leave due to the official strike. 

As the night crews returned to the depot, the management told crews to 'block the road' with their vehicles and along with a disgruntled scab, who parked his own vehicle partially across the entrance, the carts lined the street. 

Then a vehicle coming to refuel was unable to get into the depot and the driver left the vehicle in the road, thus preventing buses on route along Millfields from running. 

The disruption of services on day one saw some workers initially going in on foot, but then leaving to join the union and the strike!

Unite organiser Matt negotiated with the workers and urged them to join the union and the strike in order to get the pay they deserve. As previously reported, other workers around the country have, after taking industrial action, been given up to a 20% pay rise. 

One worker at the depot told me, 'I'm agency but I've been here three years' and he wasn't alone. Many agency workers aren't in unions and don't have any security. 

Another worker told me he is agency, works unsocial hours, gets £1,500 a month but pays £700 on rent, then £200 for his two children, then all his bills, food and travel costs which have gone up, and has little left. 

He continued,

'It's right to fight for more, this is a good strike, the bosses get their bonuses, why can't we get what we deserve, we do a dirty job.'

Police called by management could do nothing to move the official picket and stayed to make sure the law wasn't broken. 

Management at the depot had told agency workers to arrive at 4am instead of 5am to 'break the strike', but they didn't bank on Unite members on strike being there before the other workers! 

At Hackney Town Hall at 10.30am the other supporting striking services met for another rousing rally. The strike continues until Wednesday this week at all the Hackney depots.

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