Now in its fourth week, the striking bin workers in Leeds, with much support and donations from the public, are even more determined to win.
A Unison steward
The bin men are set to lose up to £6,000 a year as a result of the failure of the council to re-evaluate their jobs under the single status agreement – an agreement partly to equalise women’s pay with men which all local authorities have to implement.
Thousands of women have been awarded fairer pay through the courts. But, as a result of under-funding from national government, implementing the agreement in Leeds and other areas has meant the council attempting to level wages down, with both men and women often becoming worse off.
The council wants the bin men to accept ‘modernisation’ and pay cuts now or face privatisation. Four times the pay and grading panel refused to grade their job evaluation at a level that ensured the bin men didn’t lose out.
At the eleventh hour to avert the strike, a panel met for a fifth time. This time a higher grade was awarded but the council refused to accept it.
It is two years since the unions accepted the single status agreement in Leeds.
They accepted that around 2,000 workers would lose out in the re-evaluation process on the basis that those workers would have pay protection for three years. This still has 18 months left to run.
We were also promised that during those three years the council would re-engineer job evaluations and ensure that no one loses out.
The Liberal leader of the council last week pledged to break the strike using private contractors.
He believes the savage pay cuts will lead to ‘fair wages’. This is a man who last year pocketed a staggering £45,833 in allowances. In fact the council is spending just as much, if not more on breaking the strike as they would have spent in paying their bin men in full.
The private contactors will only run on a fortnightly basis. They only have half the effect of a fully operational council fleet cleaning up the city.
There are over 500 bin men on strike and the effect of the strike can be seen clearly.
The single status agreement is now in tatters and it is likely that we will see more action over pay and grading in the near future.
On the government’s national pay offer of a measly 1% increase, Unison members in Leeds voted to accept on the basis that the national leadership has been useless in mounting any campaign to oppose it.
- Please send emails of protest to council leader Richard Brett at Richard.email@example.com
- Please also send messages of support and donations to: Unison at firstname.lastname@example.org; GMB at email@example.com