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Photo: Leah Levane

Photo: Leah Levane

The three GMB trade unionists arrested on a Wealdon picket line in May were met with solidarity outside Hastings Magistrates Court, reports Leah Levane

Three GMB members were at Hastings Magistrates Court on 29 June 2022, having been arrested on 27 May for “obstruction” when they were peacefully picketing. They did not face the court hearing alone but were met by about 40 trade unionists who stood in solidarity with them, mobilised by Hastings and Rother Trades Council. 

Gary Palmer, Carl Turner and Declan McIntyre were arrested in the fourth week of the strike by about 40 refuse workers employed by Biffa. According to the union, three vans arrived and a dozen police officers were involved in arresting the three officials, They were led away in handcuffs.

They pleaded not guilty, which means that the case will be heard at a higher court. Most of the supporters waited for them to come out to tell us that the next hearing will be in November in Brighton.

There have been a number of strikes by refuse workers that have led to substantial pay rises, for example in Eastbourne and Bexley. These are workers who kept going through the pandemic, most of whom earn less than £10.00 per hour. But Biffa in Wealden seemed determined to hold out. The sites concerned are at Hailsham and Uckfield where waste from about 70,000 homes is processed – all overseen by the Tory run council.

The demands for a pay rise are totally reasonable and, indeed, they did win the strike just over two weeks after these arrests

But things are likely to get worse as the Police, Courts, Crime and Sentencing Act came into force on the same day as this initial hearing. It is clear that the ruling class is worried about the number of strikes and the broadly understanding, if not positive, attitudes towards them. 

On leaving court, Gary Palmer addressed the gathering saying:

“We will continue to organise; workers, if they can’t get pay rises, will, if needs be, take industrial action to do so. The fight never stops – see you at the next dispute!”

We were thanked by the Regional Secretary and the Regional President for being there; they can be certain that in Hastings and other parts of East Sussex, as across the country, we will always be there in solidarity with workers on trial and all workers who are taking action to improve their pay, conditions and rights.

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