As the bin strike in Leeds rolls into its tenth week, I'm starting to wonder whether I still support their decision to strike. Or, whether I would still support it if my bin hadn't been emptied for seven weeks, like some people I know. As it stands my bin has been emptied fortnightly, but there does seem to be a slight postcode lottery as to whether or not you get such regularity during these times of striking. There have been rumours that if you have a councillor on a MP living in your vicinity, you're in luck...
The fact is: Leeds City Council have to restructure pay to comply with Equal Pay agreements. This means some refuse workers would see a cut in their wages of £3500 upwards.
As one striking worker said in a national newspaper this week "How many people would take a 33% pay cut and say thank you?" He has a point. But then again, there is a school of opinion that £18,000 is quite a good wage for a job that is relatively unskilled. Not that these binmen will be keeping that salary if Leeds City Council gets their way.
I agree with their strike on principle, despite the fact that I think they had it too easy for too long in terms of amount of pay for amount of job skill needed. Yet you could probably apply that to a huge number of civil service positions. It's not their fault, they just go the job.
What I do not agree with is how some areas of the city have been effectively left to rot over the last ten weeks. As far as I am aware, every borough has had a bin collection at least once. People have complained about the putrid smell - let's all be glad this didn't happen in June or July, when we're supposed to have some semblance of a summer. It's all very well the unions pushing the workers to strike and the Council leaving talks in stalemate, but it's the thousands of citizens who are suffering the health and environmental implications of the fallout. Why don't we get some say in the matter? It is our council tax after all. The citizens of Leeds are effectively paying to live in filth, mess and unsanitized squalor. Great advert for the city, isn't it?
There is a source circulating unofficially that says the binmen will return to work some time in the eleventh week of the strike, as from the twelfth week dismissal from their jobs is no longer deemed 'unfair' if the employer is seen to have made genuine attempts to negotiate.
Wonder how the pest control businesses are doing in this strike....there is after all, always a silver lining.