When government workers go on strike the results can be inconvenient for the average citizen, but when binmen close down shop the results are catastrophic. Local workers in Brighton, Birmingham and Hove have gone on strike to protect pay cuts in their trade, and as the days drone on and the trash piles up, local citizens are torn between their support of their fellow workers and the need to keep the streets clean and safe.
Neglected trash bins are not only an inconvenience for people, but a downright nuisance that has created unpleasant smells and sidewalks filled with garbage containing unsafe or hazardous materials. Council members from Brighton and Hove, where the protests are most urgent, found themselves recommending that residents take their trash to nearby recycle centres as the week-long strike of local binmen continues. For the average citizen it’s less a matter of holding out than a matter of what, exactly, is the matter with either the binmen employees or the employers whose new policies are forcing the binmen into protest.
There are conflicting reports on the matter from both camps involved, which is par the course for disputes in the public sector and in the public eye. The binmen claim that the adopting of new internal changes will result in huge pay cuts, while Penny Thompson, a chief executive on the Council, insists that roughly ten percent of workers will actually be effected by these new implementations.
But the conflict is already becoming urgent for the citizens of Brighton as safety concerns are expressed through social media and local representation. Bags of trash and glass bottles are not only dangerous to the human population, but the seaside animals and ocean-farers who are also being effected by the dumping detritus of spare six pack wraps, bags, broken glass and other everyday items of garbage that become public dangers once they fall over into the streets and sidewalks and beaches. Commoner rumblings about burning through the garbage by setting the bags on fire have been quickly discouraged by local government and council, who reminded the people of Brighton that arson remains a criminal offense even if these extreme situations. For people who want to take matters into their own hands, there is precious little to do other than volunteer for pick up efforts which aim to relocate excessive garbage to a more suitable storage or a recycling centre.
The stakes are high on every side, but the garbage is stacking higher and higher as well. While citizens deal with the smell and unsanitary nature of the protest, the protestors themselves are not being paid for the duration of their protest, expounding on the problem by creating more tensions between the labor force and its employers. Recent news articles have revealed the binmen salaries as netting nearly enough pounds to quality for the top income bracket, putting doubts on the righteousness of their cause. Birmingham binmen were reportedly paid a collective forty five thousand in a year. To complicate matters further, most binmen only work an average of twenty four hours a week, putting them in enviable positions to that of many local employees and damaging the possibility for widespread citizen support.
What began as a protest of ideals has escalated into a pragmatic problem that illustrates the unique power many government employees have in inconveniencing the everyday collections of any given city. In many locations the protest delayed no more than three days of standard binman service, yet the 72 hours to come proved far more catastrophic than readily apparent on the outset, resulting in accumulations of garbage that turned many street corners into an apocalyptic parodies of clean city scenes not four days ago.
Regardless of the eventual outcome to the protests, there are immediate consequences that have riled up local representatives, citizens, employees and employers, creating a perfect storm of negative reactions that are unlikely to resolve the situation and might lead to further complications.