Friday, July 17, 2009

BIn workers strike

In Edinburgh there is the current possibility of a bin workers strike. At present refuse workers are on a 'work to rule' action - this means you do only exactly what is required, follow every bit of health and safety nonsense to the letter and intentionally slow things down.  

So at the moment, bin workers are doing the bare minimum and already Edinburgh is a mess. To me this is  both fantastic news and an important issue for feminists, as disparity between male and female rates of pay are part of the reason for this dispute. 

Bin workers are having their bonuses scrapped to bring their wages in line with the gender equality duty, which affects other 'masculine' council jobs like grave digging. More 'feminine' jobs like teaching assistants and cleaners never received these bonuses and there has been a massive disparity in pay between genders*. 

Obviously, taking money away from some of the lowest paid workers in the name of gender equality is not the answer, and we should be united in demanding more pay for all, not reduction in the wages of already low paid men. 

I think part of what makes this dispute interesting is the fact that the council/press have not really emphasised the fact that this is about addressing a sexist issue. To do this would highlight the fact that the council have had a massively sexist policy for a long time, leaving them open to being sued by female workers. Thus the cuts are called 'modernisation'. 

Thus we see an intersection of class and gender, whereby value is placed on more masculine jobs. Equally, when the bin workers see their pay cut, they strike immediately highlighting perhaps, the higher levels of entitlement felt by male workers.  I think the bin workers are right to feel that entitlement, I just wish that more female workers would realize their potential for change through strike action. I don't blame this on the cleaners or classroom assistants who may be bringing up children on their own and can't risk losing their jobs, this has to be the role of the unions and other activists. 

On another note - I was reading this guardian article about swine flu, and I got rather annoyed that the journalist felt it necessary to comment on the chief of the WHO's body and choice of shoes. Not cool. Neither is the Andrew Marr show for giving Griffin a platform to spout nonsense on sunday morning. He is not a legitimate politician and should not be treated as such. The tits behind most of the media presumably think that they can expose Griffin's racism, but by giving him a platform they take him seriously, and open up the possibility that he might be right.