At the end of October the council offered a “deal” with a shallower pay cut — a cut of hundreds of pounds a year instead of thousands of pounds per worker — and a massive workload increase. In a mass meeting called by the Unison and the GMB unions, workers overwhelmingly rejected this offer.
The council is continuing to use agency staff and moonlighting workers from other authorities to try to break the workers’ resolve. And the Lib-Dem/Tory administration it has stepped up its offensive against the striking workers by recruiting permanent un-unionised workers on £4,000 less a year than the current workers. This is a direct threat to the strikers’ jobs and is an dramatic escalation of the dispute by the council.
But the workers are making sure the council is not having it all their own way. The unions have demanded direct talks between them and the council leaders. The Lib Dem and Tory council leaders always refused. But this Monday the talks started. The workers enjoy broad public support, and they held a large and successful benefit gig and rally recently. The strike remains solid, and the workers are determined to fight on.
Unfortunately a broad labour movement campaign in support of the workers has not been built up. Equally crucial as a weakness, picketing of the scab depots has not taken place.
In South Yorkshire, striking bus workers, the firefighters and postal workers had a joint rally on Saturday 31 October (see page 4). But so far this sort of joint campaigning has not been called for in Leeds. It should be.