Ten days into a strike by the city's bin men and the dispute over Leeds' rubbish collection was already proving a dirty affair. With bin bags steadily piling up outside homes and businesses and dire warnings of streets "awash with wrappers and rotting food" (Ed: It’s Leeds – how long before people notice..?) the only winners were likely to be the booming local rat population.Oooh!
But the passions brought out by the bitter stand off between 600 striking bin men and the city council leader, a conflict which comes as more than 120,000 fellow workers in the postal, steel and engineering construction industries voted on possible action yesterday, have taken a more sinister turn.
Such as..? Hand-clipped notes attached to dead rats? A horse’s head in his bed?
Yesterday West Yorkshire Police were continuing to question six people arrested in connection with an attack on the home of Leeds City Council leader Richard Brett, the man who has become the public face of opposition to the workers' demands.Oh noes! An attack!
Bricks through the window? Arson?
No, just what everyone else is having to put up with:
Fourteen bags of rubbish were dumped on the doorstep of the Liberal Democrat's home in the north of the city all bearing posters declaring solidarity with the striking refuse staff who have staged an indefinite walkout in protest at plans which they say will see their pay cut by up to £6,000 reducing some to take home just £12,000 a year.Now, I don’t doubt that having bags of rubbish dumped at his doorstep is unpleasant, but I don’t think it constitutes an attack.
But there’s more:
Detectives are also investigating a threatening message left on Councillor Brett's answer phone. The anonymous caller accused the council chief of lying and warned "be ready Mr Brett". Security has been stepped up outside the house.Isn’t it amazing the difference in response by the police to this incident, compared to their studied indifference to the plight of Ms Pilkington, calling to report people actually vandalising her property, and being told to close her curtains?
Perhaps the police should simply advise Mr Brett not to collect his voicemail?
So, what has sparked this dispute?
The city council, which is run by a coalition of Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, says its hands are tied by legislation which required them to re-grade each job within the local authority to ensure women were paid the same as men for comparable tasks.Oh, so this can be laid at Harriet Harman’s Equality door instead?
Perhaps Mr Brett should get a service to take the sacks of rubbish over to her doorstep instead…
The result was 10,500 winners and 2,500 losers they claim and that the suggestion that bin men stand to lose £6,000 a year is a deliberate over-exaggeration.Well, no-one likes to have their job looked at, but everyone has to put up with it. Why should public sector workers be any different?
But it seems, if you peer through the smog, there’s a bit more going on here than just a dispute over regrading:
Tony Pearson, the regional negotiator of the public sector workers union Unison, has been quick to condemn the attacks on Councillor Brett but he is riled at allegations of misbehaviour on the picket lines and what he claims are council smears over the publicising of absence rates among his members.OK, several points here.
He believes a resurgent Thatcherite ideology on the behalf of management is blocking progress toward finding a solution to the dispute.
"It is not like the old days when all these workers lived on council estates. They have mortgages now and will not be able to pay them. Houses are not easy to sell at the moment but some have already put them on the market. They are literally fighting to keep the roof over their head," he said.
Firstly, why should the council not publish the absence rates? These are public servants - we have the right to know that. We are the ones paying them.
Secondly, what the hell has the fact that they have mortgages got to do with anything? So does everyone else! Should the council (i.e. us) provide them with housing too?
As BoM said, this is a case of public sector unions flexing their muscles as the last bloc of unreconstructed union power:
“Thanks to the Iron Lady's reform of union law, and crucially the realism born of global competition, union power in the private sector is now properly limited.The ‘Thatcherite’ rhetoric gives the game away…
But in the public sector there is generally no competition to concentrate minds. And union power is still a major block to necessary reform…”