On the Picket Line

Refuse collectors, street cleaners in Rugby strike for wage raise

By Julie Crawford
and Pamela Holmes
June 6, 2022

RUGBY, England — Some 70 street cleaners, lorry drivers and loaders here have been on strike since April 26 for higher pay.

“The 1.75% wage offer from the Local Government Association is a wage cut when you think inflation is standing at 9%,” Paul Hancox, a Unite union shop steward, told the Militant. “We have people who are using food banks to get by.”

The union estimates that council workers have faced a 22% drop in wages over the last 11 years.

“When we tried to negotiate a better deal with Rugby Borough Council they offered us ‘employee loans.’ Who wants to work all week then ask the employer for a loan? It was an insult,” Hancox said.

Seven out of nine agency workers employed by the council have joined the strike.

“It had to be all of us,” Hancox said. “The agency lads, they’re part of the team and we’ll make sure they’re not laid off as a result of striking. We don’t go back without them.”

Dozens of strikers picket the waste depot early in the morning then move to the Town Hall. “People see us out here every day, with our union flags and barbecues, and they wonder what’s kicking off. This is the first major strike in Rugby since the 1970s,” Darren Hunter, another Unite steward, said.

Refuse lorry drivers in nearby Coventry have been on strike since Jan. 31 for higher pay. “We went to their march and rally,” Hunter said. “And they joined us here yesterday. We’ll be going back there.”