Statement on Brighton community clean ups

from Support Brighton Council workers kitcat in bin on Facebook

This is a message/statement to all those people who have been organising clean ups and/or picking up litter. We have been overwhelmed with messages from people who have been doing this and thinking it means they are being supportive. Whilst we appreciate your well-intentioned sentiments, and efforts to help our communities be clean, we feel like we need to explain how this is actually the opposite of being supportive.

A strike is used when all other methods (e.g. negotiations etc.) have failed. It is the last resort, and means that workers democratically and collectively decide to withdraw their labour (this means workers do not get paid and do not work) in order to pressure their employer to give in to their demands. With something as emotive as rubbish, we recognise that this can mean we are potentially in a strong position, as us not working is instantly noticeable and inconvenient and disruptive for people. This puts even more pressure on the employer and hopefully makes them more willing to negotiate, and change/withdraw what they are proposing. This is the whole purpose and aim of a strike. Any attempts to lessen the impact of a strike completely undermines our action. (Also, refuse collection and street cleaning can be a dirty and dangerous job. We receive training and adequate protective equipment to enable us to do this safely and we certainly do not want any residents to be injured by carrying out our work for free.)

We wholly recognise that Brighton is not a pleasant place to be at the moment, and we apologise to all residents for the state of our city and for the inconvenience caused to you by this disruption. However, please remember that we are residents here too, and we also would like to live in a clean city and return to doing our work as soon as possible to make this the case. But the council are threatening to cut our take home pay by a substantial amount of money and we feel this is the only course of action left available to us to defend our wages. Therefore, if you would like to support us, the best thing you can do is to support us in our action – which means not carrying out the work that we would normally do. This will add to the pressure on the council to withdraw their threats to cut our pay. Hopefully then the strike can be over as soon as possible – which is the thing we can all agree that we all want – and we can return to our jobs and get working on getting our city cleaned up again. Thank you for your support.

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Link: Brighton CityClean workers strike fund

brighton picket line

picture from @GMBSussexBranch

The GMB has launched a regional dispute fund in support of a number of disputes across the region, including the most recent Brighton Council Cityclean workers and the Mytime Golf Course workers dispute. This fund will be used to help support our members in hardship. If you would like to make a donation, please click the donate button on the site:

Click here to donate to the CityClean workers

We need to talk about Brighton

This is an edited version of an article cross-posted from Green Left, the eco-socialist current within the Green Party.

Brighton: Support CityClean workersThis Friday, Green Party members across the country will face an immense dilemma – the choice between supporting our own minority Green council, or the hundreds of its refuse workers going on strike for a week against proposed pay reductions that could see some losing up to £4000 a year. That’s a choice most Greens would a few years ago have never thought they’d face. In the midst of massive local authority cuts, the Greens are in office but seemingly not in power.

Many local parties and individuals – including the local Brighton & Hove Green Party, Caroline Lucas (who has pledged to join the picket lines), and university branches such as my own – have spoken out against the bin worker pay cuts in a thus-far shambolic dispute that has seen a noble attempt to equalise pay between male and female staff leading to up to £95 a week income reductions for the (largely male) CityClean workers, idiotic comparisons to the winter of discontent, accusations of potential strike breaking, and the outsourcing of the pay proposal decision altogether in order for Greens to claim ‘it wasn’t our decision’. Yet the council leader, Jason Kitcat, seems determined not to budge. It is, to be blunt, a mess.

Serious internal discussion about this sorry state of affairs has sadly been minimal at best, stifled at worst. This won’t suffice. The party is coming under attack over this from all other sections of the left, and Labour (as well as every other supposedly progressive grouping) will exploit this to its fullest unless the Green group in Brighton change tack and handle the situation properly. If Greens don’t tackle the issue head on, other parties will do so. Greens need to talk about Brighton – partly because everyone else is.
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Brighton: Green Council has last chance to avoid bin strike

GMB members in BrightonGMB General Secretary Paul Kenny is to lead a march and demonstration of GMB members employed by Brighton & Hove City Council who will be striking over proposed cuts to their take home pay. Saturday 15 June 2013, 11:30 AM Assemble at Cityclean Depot, Upper Hollingdean Road, Brighton, BN1 7GA

Meanwhile, GMB has welcomed a commitment from the leader of Brighton Council, Jason Kitcat, that no agency or contractors will be used during any period of industrial action. The committment was made in an e-mail from Kitcat who after a period of evading the issue finally confirmed:

“This administration will not sanction the use of agency or contract workers to do the regular work of legitimately striking Council staff whilst those staff are out on strike. Accordingly, I am able to announce that all agency workers currently engaged in refuse collection and street cleaning will be withdrawn from service by 10pm on Thursday night, the day before the strike is due to begin, and agency workers will not be deployed in these areas during the strike week.”

As a result of this commitment GMB has confirmed that it will engage in negotiations with the Council to see if a way forward can be found. According to Mark Turner, GMB Branch Secretary:

“This is a small first step for the Council on the way to resolving this dispute. As a result GMB has confirmed that it is willing to attend talks to listen to what the Council have to say.

I will however say that there will need to be substantial movement in their position for industrial action to be averted. Whilst our members do not take strike action lightly, they cannot be expected to accept these reductions to their take home pay. I would like to thank those Councillors in the administration who have supported our members and brought about this decision.”

Brighton GMB members vote to break Kitcat

babyrobinsolidarity

GMB members employed by Brighton and Hove City Council have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action in response to Green Party plans to reduce their take home pay.

The members, who are employed in refuse, recycling and street sweeping, voted as follows:

Votes in favour of strike action: 95.6%

As a result GMB has formed a strike committee, which has decided that action will begin with a full week’s strike commencing on 14th June. Further dates of action will be announced in due course.

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Brighton Green Council planning strike-busting measures

From the GMB Union Southern Region

Argus article on Brighton strikeThe Green party in Brighton & Hove is planning ‘contingency measures’ in an attempt to bust a strike in Brighton by GMB members seeking to defend themselves from cuts in take home pay of up to £4000 a year.

Yesterday GMB wrote to the Green leader of the Council, Jason Kitcat, to warn him that the use of agency labour to replace striking workers is unlawful. We have now confirmed that the Council is moving a number of refuse vehicles ‘off site’ to be crewed by agency workers, and further that the Council is making moves to recruit additional agency resource.

In response to an article in today’s Brighton Argus newspaper the Chief Executive of Brighton Council, Penny Thompson, said ‘The Council is considering what contingencies it has, within employment legislation, to try to minimise levels of disruption to residents.’ She was supported by the leader of the Conservative Group opposition on the Council, Cllr Theobold, who said ‘I think that residents would expect their council to have contingency plans in place to ensure that rubbish is not left piling up on the streets

Rob Macey, GMB Senior Organiser for legal services said:

“It appears that the Green Party administration on Brighton Council is now gearing up for a full blown strike busting operation. These plans place them amongst the worst employers in the Country, with even the Conservative party in Brighton never having attempted such draconian measures.

The result of GMB’s strike ballot will be announced this Friday. Our members have received phenomenal levels of support and solidarity from across the Country, with thousands of people signing our petition against this huge cuts to take home pay.

Brighton Green Party should be ashamed of themselves, having stood on a platform of supporting Trade Union rights and fighting austerity. We are certain that the people of Brighton will remember these actions when they next come to the ballot box.”

GMB members protesting at Swindon Next store

GMB members at Swindon Next

GMB protest at Next SwindonA report from Carole Vallelly, organiser of the GMB union in Swindon and Wiltshire:

“GMB have been carrying out protests outside Next stores up and down the country.

“Next expect their profits to be up to £620m for the year up to January 2013.

“Next recently advertised a job for as low as £4.42 per hour, and are only paying £2.65 to apprentices.

“We think it is only fair they share their profits with their employees.

“By paying staff minimum wage or less, this will put an unnecessary burden on welfare in that employee incomes are subsidised by the taxpayer through working and family tax credits.
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