After one week back at work, Coventry’s refuse drivers have voted 94% in favour of continuing their strike will continue from Monday 28 March into the summer. In a dispute that has become increasingly political, they will be on the picket lines during the local elections in May.
Unite, the drivers’ union, has been incensed by Labour councillors’ rubbishing of the strikers. Refusing to negotiate, the council instead hired scab labour, paying the agency workers more than what the bin workers are demanding.
They have already spent £2.9 million of taxpayers’ money to try and break the strike, whereas it would cost just £300,000 to meet the bin workers’ demands. They have also publicly lied about the strikers’ real rates of pay.
Then the Labour authority suspended Pete Randle, a Unite rep, who is now facing dismissal. This is a clear case of victimisation. General Secretary Sharon Graham has called the charges against him ‘bogus’. On Tuesday 22 March, activists handed in a petition signed by over 11,000 people demanding Pete’s reinstatement.
The following Saturday Graham told a mass rally in the city centre, ‘Today I put [11 Labour councillors] on notice – that you will today receive your suspension letters from Unite… while we investigate your behaviour. And rest assured, you won’t be getting your hands on any of my members’ money for your elections in May.’
After two years of Keir Starmer’s party expelling left wingers from Labour, finally the right are getting a taste of their own medicine.
Labour branches and CLPs should send messages of condemnation to Coventry’s Labour Party councillors, insisting that they end their blatant union-busting tactics.
The striking workers should call on Unite and other local government unions such as Unison and GMB to ballot their members in the council to join the strike to demand the local authority pay bin lorry drivers a decent wage and reinstate Pete Randall. If the council get away with these tactics, every future strike will be threatened.
Unite and Labour parties should call on Labour councillors and candidates to openly take their side and break with the strike-breakers – or face a funding and campaigning boycott during the election.