Cleaners slam Labour for “selling out” in Brighton


11:27 am - May 27th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Furious union workers have slammed Labour councillors in Brighton for “selling out” over proposed cuts to worker pay.

GMB workers also said Labour had blown their chance to protect pay and were using them as a “political football”.

The row flared up after it was revealed that a Green councillor had privately approached the Labour group leader for help in ousting council leader Jason Kitcat, also a Green councillor.

He is the driving force behind a controversial plan to equalise work pay that will drive down allowances for many poorer workers. His plan is opposed by many Green councillors who say the council should instead look at wages being equalised up rather than down.

After Green councillor Alex Phillips approached Labour councillor Warren Morgan with the offer, in confidence, he posted the Twitter DM discussion online. Ms Phillips sent this blog a statement apologising for her actions on Friday afternoon.

But the decision of Labour councillors not to cooperate were immediately criticised by GMB City Cleaners.

In a series of Twitter messages, a representative of the GMB workers said everyone was “furious” with Brighton Labour because they saw the move “as blowing [their] chance” to oust Kitcat and quash the plans.

Workers added that they were “fed up with being [used as a] political football”.

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Another message said: “everyone here who knows about it furious at Labour cos looks like selling us out for political gain.

Some Labour supporters defended the party, saying that interfering in an internal Green coup was against the party’s constitution. But GMB workers dismissed such claims by saying: “But by *not* doing something you still influence outcome so doesn’t matter either way.

Another Tweet put it more starkly: “If Labour supported the [Green] cllrs that support us, looks like you supporting us. You oppose them, looks like opposing us”

Workers added on Friday after news of the failed coup emerged: “Everyone at work was raging today.”

Meanwhile, Alex Phillips was praised by local bloggers for risking internal strife to help the GMB cleaners.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Can’t say I feel sorry for GMB. They’ve dragged the only viable leftist local government alternative in the country through the mud, to the glee of the Labour party. All this is going to do is let in a Labour administration which will be much, much worse.

2. Brighton and Hove Labour

A couple of things:

First of all the Green Party in Brighton and Hove voted with the Tories to cut low paid worker pay, we (Labour) voted against this and stood by low paid workers. We still standby them, but we need to dispel a few myths.

The so called coup by Cllr Phillips who wanted to install Cllr Maccaferty as leader was a non event (see Phillips subsequent statement).

If the greens wanted to get shot of Jason Kitcat, leader of the council, then why didn’t they do it t their AGM a few weeks ago? This was their opportunity to do so, but not one person stood against him. The Labour Party rules are quite clear in that we could not have proposed a Green Party councillor to be council leader and so could not have nominated Cllr Maccaferty, who after the event said he knew nothing about a coup anyway.

Removing Kitcat would not stop the cuts to low paid workers, the so called final offer is out to consultation. However, ANY Cllr including Phillips and Maccaferty can propose a motion so that Cllrs get to have final sign off on any offer, that’s ANY Cllr. We were told this was going to happen 3 hours before the last council meeting. Once again, this was Cllr Phillips briefing the media, however, once again it never happened.

The Green Party in Brighton and Hove voted with the Tories to cut low paid workers pay, we voted against. All this nonsense from Cllr Phillips about a new leader and the failure re of the Greens to move motions from the floor is testament to what is really happening here, which is, once again that the Greens voted with the Tories to cut low paid workers pay and they are desperately trying to do anything to distract from that. The only people who have sold out are Brighton and Hove Green Party Cllrs.

As the Greens struggle with the harsh realities of having(minority) control over a city council that is suffering huge cuts in funding from central government, Labour are desperately hoping this will be their chance to begin to regain some influence in Brighton. Not so long ago they controlled the council and had all three parliamentary seats. Now they are in third place on the council behind the Greens and the Tories, and have none of the MPs. The signs so far are that Labour may blow that chance. The Greens meanwhile, although in very real difficulties, should not be written off yet. If they win an upcoming byelection the balance will shift in favour of the rebel Green group who have the support of the majority of the local party, and Labour’s hopes will be thwarted. Whatever side you are on, you have to admit local politics in Brighton is interesting…

The Cllrs had no choice but to accept the legal advice they’ve received from their monitoring officer. Single status has screwed everyone over and the Birmingham Council Supreme Court decision sent shock waves through councils. To play party politics with this is cheap which is why GMB are popping Labour knowing full well they had fuck all choice.

Nobody wanted this but it’s one of those unidentified consequences of Harman being a risible ejeet.

5. paul barker

I really find it hard to express my contempt for Labour, the various Communist sects who control the GMB & the minority, “Leftist” faction of The Greens. Your collective backing for a group of Men who think they have a natural right to be payed more than Women is shocking but not surprising.

@5 – not sure natural right has got bugger all to do with anything. Budgets, dear boy, budgets. 1st thing to do is shoot all the lawyers. This was bad top down policy. If you think dustbin men, litter pickers, gardeners etc should be paid £18,000 a year – cool, i’m with ya, if you also think dinner ladies, cleaners and home care staff should be paid the same – cool as beans. However, if the accounts asst or licensing officer then says ‘i’ve got A levels, a degree etc, I should be paid more than the dinner lady, bin man” then the whole house of cards falls down.

This has been fubar for 20 years, Birmingham may get fined £750 million so the decision is pressing. We had these negotiations and there’s so much compo it’d blow your socks off. I’m not surprised this has imploded in Brighton being of the left. However, when Brum got screwed, it was no overall control with 3 party debate.

I did this at my local council working for Tories in full control and it was the compo bill that hurt. We had to reduce bin men’s pay rather than jack up the lasses as that’s 20 years of salary & pension to cough up. I cannot express to you how upsetting it is to tell guys who get up at 4am to shovel shit that we can’t offer you my money is. The dodge is in training, the change of job for bin men to refuse operative etc. They can treat the HR officer as wankers after 2 years but it can’t be a quid pro quo or else it’s instant liability.

Harman fucked up or didn’t care.

What Jon said at the top there. Labour should have fixed the skewed allowances that favoured male workers over female workers, but they didn’t – because they either didn’t care about sexist pay structures or (more likely) they wanted to dump this on the Greens.

Kitcat has come up with the only plausible, legal, fair and affordable solution (unless I’ve missed one from the Labour brains trust), and Phillips should be ashamed of herself. To her credit I believe she is.

8. Quest of the Blatant Beast

Remind me again, who pays for the rounding up?

9. Derek Hattons Tailor

They are not “sexist pay structures”. Being a bin man is harder work than being an office cleaner hence allowances are given to ensure that bin men can be recruited and retained. If a council had trouble recruiting and retaining office cleaners there would be an allowance for that as well. It is a fact of life that different jobs have different rates of pay, determined in unskilled sectors by how unpleasant/risky the job is and the supply/demand characteristics of the labour market in the sector. This means that if cleaners want the same pay as refuse collectors, they should collect refuse.

This sort of equalisation argument just plays into the hands of the outsourcers who can exploit the whole workforce by undercutting the pay structure and eroding hard fought conditions and job security by erasing any pay differentials (the reality of Tony Blair’s “flexible labour market”) making workers interchangeable and therefore more disposable.

Pass the popcorn, please.

11. Warren Morgan

When the Greens n Tories voted to pass control of the pay modernisation issue to officers, the GMB balloted all councillors as to whether they agreed. All Labour cllrs responded no, only three of the 22 Greens did. It was only when things looked difficult that the rebel group of ten – who have been looking to oust their leader for over a year – decided to protest with placards alongside the GMB outside council.
The Green split long predates the dispute. The rebels Green are opportunistically using it to shift power in their group. They are promising the GMB what they want to hear – that the pay issue will just go away – if Kitcat is ousted. Of course, like the ‘resist all cuts’ pledge that got them elected in the first place, that just isn’t deliverable.Labour won’t play these games.

12. Charlieman

@9. Derek Hattons Tailor: “They are not “sexist pay structures”. Being a bin man is harder work than being an office cleaner hence allowances are given to ensure that bin men can be recruited and retained. If a council had trouble recruiting and retaining office cleaners there would be an allowance for that as well.

It is a fact of life that different jobs have different rates of pay, determined in unskilled sectors by how unpleasant/risky the job is and the supply/demand characteristics of the labour market in the sector. This means that if cleaners want the same pay as refuse collectors, they should collect refuse.”

One of my uncles was a bin man for thirty years. One of the rich boys, dated by a sister, worked on the bins during university holidays. The job pays well, and the workers earn it. Rubbish stinks but modern rubbish is handled by machines rather than people, so there is less exposure to stink or physical labour. Perhaps.

An importunate neighbour signed up with the local company that processes recycling bags from households. The bags are intended to contain waste paper, plastics, glass etc. Machines can identify most of the recoverable materials travelling on a belt. Human beings pick out used nappies, condoms etc. My importunate neighbour survived one day.

Assuming that you can tolerate another anecdote… In conversation, I once asked a woman about her job. She drove a van between factories swapping boxes used to store female sanitary towels for a clean one. I did not have a witty reply.

Perhaps the bin job is physically challenging. Perhaps there are other jobs that endure stinks and the ugh factor.

13. Robin Levett

@DHT #9:

They are not “sexist pay structures”. Being a bin man is harder work than being an office cleaner hence allowances are given to ensure that bin men can be recruited and retained. If a council had trouble recruiting and retaining office cleaners there would be an allowance for that as well. It is a fact of life that different jobs have different rates of pay, determined in unskilled sectors by how unpleasant/risky the job is and the supply/demand characteristics of the labour market in the sector. This means that if cleaners want the same pay as refuse collectors, they should collect refuse.

Two words: Single Status.

warren morgan comment 11, you just said the pay wont go away if kitkat is ousted and labour are not playing games. i think you are because if no party can solve this legally then the only options are find the best legal way of solving it or advocate for refusing to set a budget and have the governement come in. if you dont want to play games abstain on next years budget.

15. Derek Hattons Tailor

@ 12 I remember a very old joke about menstrual cycles that ended with “no it’s alright I’m in my van” but I don’t think it would work on this blog

@ 13 What is single status, if not a neo liberal bosses aspiration to reduce wages and worker power by deskilling all work and making workers completely interchangeable and thus easier to sack and replace. Blair called it the “flexible labour market” strangely it is not (yet) applicable to the middle classes – a solicitor can’t possibly do a barristers job, a quantity surveyor can’t design buildings, a certified accountant cannot sign off tax returns etc

16. Charlieman

@15. Derek Hattons Tailor: “…a solicitor can’t possibly do a barristers job…”

There is some glorious humour in those words given that Robin Levett is a lawyer.

But returning to DHT’s point, the expression Human Resources has replaced departmental descriptions such as Staffing. Human Resources has created its own world of euphemisms and management theories. Such things elevate HR from an intermediary between line bosses and pay roll staff; they elevate HR into an important management role and remove discussion about Humanity.

According to (bad) HR, what you do at work tomorrow is defined in your Job Role. A job role is a replaceable unit in a process. The person in a job role can be swapped out in the same way as a piece of machinery. Job role evaluation does not measure overall contribution to business success; it counts crude output.


I don’t know how to compare the jobs of cleaners and bin workers working in Brighton. As I have said on this thread previously, they deserve similar pay when doing similar jobs, as much as I understand it all.

But I can’t help noticing that working close to motorists and head crushing machinery is a risk when working on the bins. Bin workers earn a premium.

(I don’t think that I have contradicted anything that I wrote @12.)


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