Refuse workers take to the streets

Waltham Forest Town Hall

Bin men and women blockaded roads around Waltham Forest Town Hall earlier this week to protest at proposed pay cuts of up to £8,000 each.

The local Guardian reported that refuse workers fear they will not be able to pay their mortgages or look after their children if the cuts go ahead, and are threatening to strike.

Codenamed Operation Takeover, the unofficial action saw around 20 wagons surround the fountain of the building in Forest Road, Walthamstow, blocking exits with horns blaring and lights flashing for one hour this morning.

Former Big Brother contestant Carole Vincent from the Respect Party and representatives from the Socialist Worker Party were there to cheer the protestors on.

Refuse collectors say they face great hardship if the plan goes ahead.

"It's just going to be impossible. I've got four children and I'm seriously considering that I'll be forced to give the job up and go on benefits," said one 41-year-old, who stands to lose £8,000 a year after 22 years in the job.

"I'm facing losing 40 per cent of my wages. How can they expect people to do that? Even though I've got a council house I pay rent of over £100 a week plus council tax. The bills won't go down will they?"

The council wants to slash pay so refuse workers are paid the same as other low-paid manual workers to comply with the Government's single status rules.

But employees, who take home as little as £170 per week without overtime, say pay for kitchen staff and lollipop ladies should be brought up to their level, and are balloting for a strike.

Another worker of 31 years, said: "I'm f***ing disgusted. This council hasn't got a clue. I work for the rapid response unit and do anything from cleaning up blood after a stabbing to picking up dead cats from the street. People don't want to do this job."

The man, who said he was too scared of repercussions to give his name, said the council was spending £300,000 a year paying for a consultant to run the service but could not pay workers a proper wage.

Ms Vincent, who is running for the council in the forthcoming Leyton by-election, said the proposal was disgraceful.

"Everyone supports equal pay for equal work but not to the detriment of people who have been working for all this time."

Bob Thompson, 59, earns just £24,500 after 40 years as a bin man, which is due to drop to £21,000.

"I'll have to make a lot of difficult decisions," he said. "My children are grown up now and I wanted to start enjoying life a little. It's not right."

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Jan 13 2008 13:02


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