On the Picket Line

UK refuse workers reject wages below inflation, strike for more

By Hugo Wils
November 20, 2023

WARRINGTON, England — Some 65 refuse workers employed by the Labour Party-led Warrington Borough Council and organized by the Unite union have voted for a third wave of strike action.

Their first set of strike days began Oct. 3, part of a broader fight involving local council workers across the U.K.

The current one was due to end on Nov. 6, but will now resume two days later and run through Nov. 20. The workers on the picket line are determined to win a pay raise higher than the below-inflation, flat-rate increase of 1,925 pounds a year ($2,387) offered by the council.

“It comes to a point where we just said, ‘Enough!’ It’s been like this for 13 years,” picket Andy Gudgin told the Militant. “We need to be able to sustain our families.”

Gudgin said he recently joined the union, as did some 40 of his co-workers, when the union made it clear it was going to put up a fight.

“Solidarity with the pickets is crucial,” union steward and safety representative Kevin Jolley said. “We’ve been getting support from rail workers organized by the RMT, aerospace workers in Chester organized by Unite and many Unite members and other working people in the area,” Branch Secretary Stefan Thorpe said. The union is handing out a leaflet explaining to area residents why they’re on strike, and many drivers stopped by the picket to get them.

So far 23 Unite union branches in the U.K. have rejected the 1,925- pound increase offered by local council authorities across the country and have voted for strike action.

“Many council workers, from Tower Hamlets to Wrexham [Wales] have balloted to reject the pay offer made to them and fight to win a better deal,” said Thorpe.

In the Tower Hamlets Borough of London, striking refuse workers have already secured a higher pay deal as well as an agreement that all refuse workers hired by agencies will be brought in-house by the end of the year.

Messages of solidarity can be sent to stefan.thorpe@unitetheunion.org.