Hackney strikers shocked by management tactics

by Hackney Socialist Party members

Hackney Council Unite members are continuing their action on pay. On the fifth day of their strike against the Labour council, management called in police to a peaceful low-key picket of the SEND (special educational needs and disability) passenger transport garage.

Hackney council housing workers on strike 3 May
Hackney council housing workers on strike 3 May
Photo: Chris Newby

Striking workers looked on in amazement as a number of police vehicles with flashing blue lights rushed through the narrow streets at 5.30am.

They had been called because a car had been approached by pickets about supporting the action. A manager instructed the driver to get out, which left his vehicle blocking the road. It wasn’t lost on the workers that the police appeared in moments.

These two police officers were intent on getting this vehicle into the depot, but only succeeded in blocking part of the exit for a queue of SEND buses waiting to get out of the depot. The pickets and their supporters wanted to speak to the drivers about the dispute. Suddenly, one of the drivers accelerated, looking like he wanted to burst through and over the picket line.

This embarrassed the police, who had claimed that they were protecting the peace, presumably from the pickets! It seemed that the driver was stepped down and a manager took over the bus. We understand that the head of HR has subsequently apologised to people who complained of being hit.

A few hours later, at the end of the picket, strikers were in good spirits, knowing that the morning’s action had sent another strong signal that they are determined to win the pay rise they deserve.

After reviewing the six days of strike action, and in the face of management intransigence, Unite is looking to expand the dispute. It will be balloting parking enforcement officers who were brought back into the council from a private company in April this year, but have not been placed on council terms and conditions. The fight continues.

Hackney council – whose side are you on?

6TH MAY 2022

by Brian Debus, Hackney Socialist Party and President, Hackney Trades Council

Hackney management’s propaganda machine has rivalled George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’ in recent days in regards to Unite members’ strike action over pay at Millfields waste depot, Andrews Road special education needs and disability (SEND) driver and escorts depot, and the building maintenance depot.

In an email to all employees from the chief executive and group directors, they thank staff for the extra effort made during the action to ensure vulnerable residents receive the services they need.

This means thanks to those that have scabbed on the dispute, and to senior managers, particularly at the waste depot, who have harassed and verbally abused strikers and supporters. One 80-year-old resident who was supporting the strike has reported she was pushed.

This also ignores the very real impact on all residents that 12 years of cuts totalling £140 million has had every day of every week of every year.

Management congratulate themselves on their good working relationship with the unions, despite late consultations and local joint committees that managers do not attend. This has led to denying the unions a voice over very serious matters.

This is one of the reasons that Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidates stood in the May elections in Hackney to challenge these arrogant out-of-touch councillors.

Management claim “examples…of entirely unacceptable behaviour”. The only unacceptable behaviour has been from managers trying to break the strike.

All the unions in Hackney have strengthened their resolve to support Unite members to ensure they are successful in their claim of 10% to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis.