Brighton

Refuse workers trash wage cuts

Following on from the attacks detailed in last issue of Catalyst, refuse workers in Leeds and Brighton have won significant victories defeating attempts to slash their pay under the twisted logic of ‘equal pay’.

In Leeds, following a mass meeting at which 79% of the GMB and Unison members voted to accept management’s offer, the 11 week Leeds City Council bin strike ended on 24 November 2009 when victorious bin crews and street cleaners marched back to work at Cross Green and Yeadon depots.

The workers had gone on strike on September 7, sparked by a new union-negotiated pay and grading structure agreed under the auspices of the NJC Single Status Agreement, that entailed loss of bonuses and weekend rates -leaving them facing a massive £4,500 cut to their £17,500 annual pay.

When equality means cuts

In 1997, councils across Britain came to an agreement with unions to undertake ‘Single Status’ job evaluations to end the discrepancies between manual and white collar jobs. Parallel to this, claims made about the historic pay discrepancies between traditionally male and traditionally female jobs were won at various Employment Tribunals. Historically, workers in female dominated jobs (such as those working around childcare) have been paid significantly less than those in jobs usually seen as ‘men’s work’, such as refuse collection.

Since the Equal Pay Act in 1970 these pay discrepancies had been open to legal challenge, but Single Status was supposed to be an across the board solution that would see every job within the councils evaluated and regarded equally based on the content of the job. In theory, this was of course a good thing.