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By the time you read this Leeds city council bin workers will have voted to continue to strike at a mass meeting on 21 October, following their shop stewards’ recommendation, after looking at the detail of an offer made to them last week.

A Unison steward

Now in the seventh week of the dispute, the offer has too many strings, which would set workers against each other, and members will not accept a penny less on their pay.

It is the strength of Unison and GMB members working together that forced the council to blink first and offer concessions, a political embarrassment after saying that they would not talk to the unions until their members went back to work.

The solidarity of the two unions is something the council did not expect, as initially they did not agree on getting the most out of the single status agreement – an agreement intending to equal women’s pay up to men’s, which the council intend to use to level men’s pay down to women’s pay.

If the council gets their way, the agreement will see the refuse collectors lose a third of their pay which is equivalent to £100 a week! The council bosses won’t be losing any money. Meanwhile this dispute is putting strains on workers’ livelihoods and their families.

However, the support of the public has been absolutely marvellous, with some making the pickets sandwiches and hot food and drink, as well as donating much needed money. People are wholly opposed to privatisation of the service, which is what lies behind this dispute.

A successful benefit gig has been held, where trade unionists and their families came together from across the region as well as members of the public in solidarity with the bin men. The mood was confident and defiant.

Although the council has brought in scab labour through private contractors from all over the country, they are struggling to have an effect on the city’s streets.

Many local authorities are watching this dispute as a ‘test case’ to see if they can make similar cuts using macho-style management, so it is imperative the bin workers win.

The strike needs to involve all 19 grades of council workers who will lose out under the single status agreement and all those whose services are threatened with closure.

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