Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Liverpool Bin Collectors Work To Rule as Contractor Prepares Scabs

The rubbish is starting to pile up in Liverpool, as refuse collectors work to rule in a dispute over a pay claim. Meanwhile, there are strong hints that the Amey contractor is planning to get scab labour in from its South Ribble employees.

Collections of household waste and recycling are currently estimated to be a day and a half behind schedule, something which in of itself proves that refuse workers are worth far more than their 3% pay claim. 'Working to rule' is the industrial tactic where employees follow the terms of their contracts to the letter - doing no more than the minimum set out. When workers do this, it demonstrates how much extra and unpaid work is part of the 'everyday'.

In the case of the Liverpool refuse workers, a leaked council email reports that they are:

"... leaving the depot later, only putting one bin at a time on the wagon and returning to depot for lunch and finishing at 2.30pm [...] They are working their way through the rounds, picking up from where they left off the previous day. By start of play Friday there was 13% of Wednesday’s work and 91% of Thursday’s work outstanding."

If the Liverpool refuse workers have got a day and a half behind in just over a week by working to rule, it shows that they do a huge amount of work over and above their contractual responsibities every single day, and a huge pay rise would be needed to reflect this! What's more, many areas of Liverpool are not supplied with wheelie bins, which means workers must deal with them directly, despite the health risks.

Amey refused to confirm suspicions that it was hiring scab labour to try and break the Liverpool workers, but admitted it was registering extra vehicles with the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority, which could be used by scabs. Clearly precisely this disgusting act - or the threat of it - is the company's intention.

GMB convenor Graham Smith told the Liverpool Echo that he's doing all he can to avoid strike action: "At this stage we have not stepped it up. We are just trying to get the company to talk." On the prospect of scab-hiring, he gave another timid answer, declaring that: "If they brought them in, I’m not saying straight away, but then the relationship between ourselves and the company would deteriorate."

Under the anti-trade union laws, the GMB and Unite unions would have to give Amey seven days' notice of intention to strike, and union leaders have refused to call a strike date so far, despite a unanimous mandate to do so on a large turnout. There is therefore a real danger that Amey will bring in scab labour, knowing it will be a full week before legal strike action can began. This would give them plenty of time to clear the backlog.
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