Bin workers at Thurrock Council are set to strike in protest at the installation of cameras on the refuse trucks which will livestream 360 degree images to the manager’s desk. It would appear that not only will the cameras monitor the workers, they could also be used to look at the homes of residents for any possible infringements of bin etiquette. This is coming on top of management not listening to the concerns of workers which has lead to a decline in morale. See here for the full story: Bin collectors in Thurrock to strike over ‘big brother style cameras’.
The signal the council are sending out with installation of cameras is that not only are the workers not to be trusted, it’s residents who can’t be trusted either. When every function a worker performs has to be monitored and recorded on a continuous basis, it inevitably leads to a decline in morale as bin workers lose the autonomy they have to collectively decide how to get the job done as efficiently as possible. When residents are also monitored like children for any infringements in bin protocol, it leads to a breakdown in trust between them and the council who are supposed to serve them. This breakdown of trust says a lot about where we are as a society, namely in a pretty bad place where social solidarity is replaced with mistrust and fear.
We offer our unconditional support to the striking bin workers. Sure, people are going to be inconvenienced but that’s the whole point of a strike – to get the point across that society cannot get by without the labour of a key group of workers. A few days of the trash not being collected will hopefully make people appreciate what the bin workers do and show them the respect they deserve for a dirty, physically demanding job. In an ideal world, that would go beyond appreciation to active solidarity. However, we do not live in an ideal world – we live in an atomised, dysfunctional one so there’s a lot of work to do to build that solidarity.