US waste workers win wage-hike and union rights
Members of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA) have won a long-running campaign against Covanta, the energy-from-waste multinational that has been trying to break into the UK and Dutch markets recently, and British unions are proud to have played our part in solidarity. Despite a vicious campaign against the union, Covanta faced numerous legal challenges to their behaviour, and an international campaign to force them to deal with the union. And we’ve won!
Workers in Massachusetts have secured a crucial ‘first contract’ (equivalent to union recognition) restoring benefits taken away when they voted to join the UWUA, as well as retrospective wage and bonus increases, together with all sorts of other rights including better health and safety; protection against discipline; grievance and arbitration; limits on subcontracting; union access to company property and employee leave time for union business.
The TUC and trade unions in Britain like the UWUA’s sister union the GMB, as well as local trade unionists like Bedford Trades Council responded to calls for solidarity from the UWUA (and the TUC’s sister organisation in the USA, the AFL-CIO). TUC Regional Secretaries in the parts of the country where Covanta is seeking to set up energy-from-waste plants (Wales, the North West and SERTUC) protested about allowing such an anti-union company into the UK market. Similar campaigns were run in Canada and the Netherlands.
The new deal between Covanta and the UWUA is just the beginning. Workers at nearly 40 other significant Covanta facilities in the US still do not enjoy the benefits and protections of union representation. The struggle continues.