WEST THURROCK, England — Refuse workers here held a mass meeting on their picket line April 21 and voted to extend their strike actions. The Unite union members work for the city, east of London. They’ve been striking daily for five hours since April 13. “If necessary, we’ll extend it for the other three hours,” said union organizer Willie Howard.
They gave special applause to 10 workers on agency contracts who decided to join the strike after crossing the line the first week.
The workers face significant cuts in wages and attacks on their working conditions. Up to 50 workers take part in the daily pickets.
“Each time we’ve been forced to take action, we’ve come out on top,” Natalie Garwood told visitors to the picket line, pointing to previous strike actions. Garwood, who has worked at the Thurrock depot for 27 years, was the first woman refuse collector in the U.K. She and Christy Vaughan, a driver for 14 years, speak proudly of what women workers have achieved.
Garwood brought out newspaper clippings about her breakthrough employment and of a 1999 union dispute and she shared them with Pamela Holmes, Communist League candidate for the London Assembly. They were joined by Billy Spencer, a former union leader at the depot, now retired, one of dozens who have visited the picket in support.
“A union delegation came from the nearby Co-op warehouse,” Vaughan said, as trucks passing by sounded their horns in solidarity.
Spencer spoke of a battle with management in 2010 when workers were ordered to go out in dangerous conditions of snow and icy roads. Another striker showed a video of the dispute that’s on YouTube when the workers drove their trucks to snarl up the town center.
Martin “Snapper” Snackbull told the Militant about solidarity he and others had brought to miners and print workers on strike in the 1980s.
“It’s through actions like these that we’ve established the wages and conditions now under attack,” said striker Steve Lindsay. “We owe it to ourselves, to the newer workers and to future generations to stand up for what we’ve fought for and believe in.”