Refuse workers in Brighton have declared an end to their industrial action after the council leadership backed down in a dispute which rocked the UK’s only administration run by Green party councillors. The Brighton Argus is reporting that 60% of the workers voted to accept a new deal, details of which have yet to emerge.
The decision comes after the Green administration suffered a significant blow in the form of a by-election defeat in what has historically been the second safest Green ward in the only constituency in the country held by the party.
The pay cuts also caused conflict amongst Greens, with the council leadership breaking a policy agreed by their local party, and being condemned by much of the council group, and by Caroline Lucas for doing so.
The Green administration claimed that the cuts were the only way to navigate between the shrinking council budget and the need to change the sexist pay policies left as a legacy by former Labour and Tory councils. Opponents of the deal argued that it is possible to equalise without cutting he package received by low paid workers.
Replying to a request for a comment on Twitter today, the GMB City Clean branch described the deal as a ‘hollow victory’, indicating perhaps that they didn’t get everything they wanted. However, the branch secretary of the union discribed the new offer as ‘improved’.
The fact that the council administration have backed down and offered an improved deal of some kind is likely to undermine those who claimed that no alternatives to the proposed cuts in take home pay were possible. The shift is therefore a significant victory for both the City Clean workers, and members of the local and national Green Party in holding their administration to account.
Greens in the city will be pleased that the affair is, at least for now, over. Let’s hope they can quickly clean up any (metaphorical) mess it has left.