On the Picket Line

Refuse workers strike continues, bosses’ move for injunction fails

By Hugo Wils
December 18, 2023

WARRINGTON, England — Labour Party-led local authorities failed in their attempt to use the courts to break the strike that began Oct. 3 by over 70 Unite-organized refuse collectors here. Workers recently voted to continue their strike into December.

Union membership has grown significantly since the walkout began, wagon driver and Unite Branch Secretary Stefan Thorpe told the Militant. “Twenty-nine people voted for the strike, 22 at the Woolston Depot, and since then another 50 workers joined the union.”

At the heart of the strike is the workers’ rejection of the bosses’ offer of a below-inflation, flat-rate increase of 1,925 pounds ($2,430) a year. The refuse workers want an actual raise, not a pay cut.

The bosses’ use of temporary contracts and imposition of increased workloads are part of the fight. “Warrington has grown by 6% over the last three years,” Thorpe said, “but we still have the same amount of wagons and crews to do our job!

“And 19 workers are on nine-month temporary contracts that end just before Christmas,” he added. “They should be made permanent.”

The strike is part of a broader set of work disputes by 23 different local authorities against Unite refuse workers across the U.K. who have rejected the bosses’ proposed flat-rate offer.

Warrington Borough Council tried to use the 2016 Trade Union Act to get the strike declared illegal, but the court ruled against this.

The ruling has emboldened workers to continue their strike, winning union support. “Fellow Unite council workers I’m in contact with in Wrexham, Cardiff, Leicester, Southampton, Newcastle and more gave us the thumbs up after we won the court case,” Thorpe said. The Mid Cheshire Unite branch donated 750 pounds to their strike fund.

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