Unite the unions!
Along with the much-publicised action in Coventry, strikes and other disputes seem to be breaking out everywhere. Industrial action in Rugby, which began on 26 April and was due to end on 10 May, is now set to continue until 15 June. In Hackney, from 25-27 April and 3-5 May, refuse workers and staff in repairs, and passenger services for children with special needs, also struck. The disputes in Rugby and Hackney are both over low pay.
Unite’s organising drive across the industry is spilling over into other unions, inspiring refuse workers in the GMB in particular to join the struggle.
Joint activity and the threat of strike action by refuse workers and cleaners in Manchester, who are organised by both Unite and the GMB, won workers an 11-22% pay rise. Workers at Bristol Waste organised by Unison, Unite and GMB are also likely to ballot for strike action. In March, HGV drivers organised by the GMB won a 12.6% pay rise in Plymouth and GMB members have been involved in disputes elsewhere.
While Unite is leading the way, workers in the GMB and Unison unions are also facing the pinch of the rising cost of living and are keen to get in on the act. It is therefore crucial that there is an industry-wide campaign involving all unions that organise refuse workers to push for better pay and conditions.
Unite should take the opportunity to use its position as the largest union in the industry and the profile it has gained from the organising drive to invite the other unions into such a campaign, where a common, national list of demands can be agreed. There is nothing to stop rank and file workers from the Big Three unions coming together to do the same, while cross-union rank and file strike committees should be built from below to power the joint strikes.
This is also an opportunity for militant trade unionists from all unions to get in contact with one another, building solidarity and laying the groundwork for joint action.