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Unite members on the picket line in Angus. Picture: Unite Scotland

Support the Angus bin workers’ strike – Stop the council cuts!

Text of a Socialist Party Scotland leaflet 

140 Unite members employed as bin workers for Angus Council have begun their first phase of action with a 5-day strike. From next week the workers will hold a 48-hour strike every Monday and Tuesday until the end of June.

Socialist Party Scotland stands full-square in solidarity with the these heroic trade unionists and their fight against draconian attacks on their terms and conditions.

Angus Council is forcing through a dramatic change to the service. A result of a planned £36 million cuts package to council budgets over the next three years.

From the current 7am to 3pm shift pattern, Angus bosses have imposed on a two-shift system of 6am until 2pm and 2pm until 10pm. The plan being to save £160,000 a year in costs and over £2 million by reducing the fleet of bin lorries.

Quite rightly the Unite members have rejected this scandal. The strength of feeling was shown by the overwhelming 92% vote in favour of industrial action on a turnout of 87%.

Les Scott, a Unite shop steward, explained: “We are protesting for our human and welfare rights. We won’t be subject to working until 10pm at night and not even with any extra pay. We are already among the lowest paid in Britain. The impact this will have on our work-life balance will be drastic. The union also have huge concerns over health and safety by having to work until 10pm at night.”

The idea of working until 10pm at night in large bin lorries, particularly in the winter months, is also a justified concern for the union. As is being able to get to and from work when public transport will not be available, especially in a rural area like Angus.

The attack on the Angus bin workers is part of a national onslaught against Scottish council workers’ terms and conditions. Consultative and strike action ballots have been taking place in Dundee among hundreds of council workers across the three unions of Unison, GMB and Unite, as well as in West Dumbartonshire.

Strike action delivers for workers

The potential across every one of the 32 local authorities in Scotland to coordinate action against the cuts onslaught, which is impacting hard on council workers, should be grasped by the trade unions.

The recent Glasgow Equal Pay strike victory was won through the use of mass strike action last October. Glasgow bin workers walked out in “illegal” solidarity action with the mainly female strikers in an outstanding display of working class solidarity.

Scottish teachers have also just won a significant pay rise after threatening a national campaign of strike action.

In Dundee, the Home Care workers have defeated the SNP-led council’s plan to force them onto split shifts after voting 90% in favour of industrial action.

In addition to a national campaign of industrial action, the trade unions should demand every single council, and the Scottish government, stop carrying out Tory cuts. It’s time to demand that elected politicians start fighting alongside communities and trade unionists rather than acting as a conveyer belt for austerity.

No cuts budgets

Socialist Party Scotland has long demanded that councillors and MSPs set no cuts budgets, using their powers over borrowing, reserves and other financial mechanisms to refuse cuts.

This could then form part of a mass campaign to demand a return of the billions stolen from local councils since the banks were bailed out in 2008. Angus council alone has lost £100 million in the last 10 eight years.

Socialist policies

Tory, SNP, Blairite Labour and so-called independent politicians act in the interests of big business. They all pass on cuts while the billionaires and big business get off without a scratch.

We fight for socialist policies that would mean an end to all cuts and privatisation, full trade union rights, a £10 an hour minimum wage and more. The money is there.

The billionaire-elite have never been richer. Big business makes billions and pays ever-decreasing amounts of tax.

We say yes, tax the rich and big business but bring into public ownership under democratic workers’ control the main corporations that dominate the economy.

Let’s plan for working class need not the bosses’ greed. Fight for a socialist society that ends austerity and secures workers’ rights, permanently. And build a new mass working class party to fight for socialist change.