|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 5th March 1948, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Rushden Urban District Council
Bath-Tin Strike is Called Off
Fears that Rushden householders would have to dump their own refuse this week were short-lived. An unofficial strike by the town’s eleven dustmen lasted two days.
Behind the strike was a new order requiring the men to empty dustbins directly into freighters instead of first transferring it into bath tins. The employers Rushden Urban Council maintained that the new system was more hygienic; the workmen maintained that it was a wasted time.
The collectors had given the plan a day’s trial before downing bath-tins on Tuesday morning.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, Mr. A. E. Wheeler, chairman of the local branch of the Municipal and General Workers’ Union, told a representative of this paper on Tuesday that the men were complaining about the conditions of work.
Previously he said, they emptied dustbins into baths, which they carried to the road. Now they had been issued with an order that the bins must be carried to the dustcarts.
Half a Day
“It means a considerable waste of time,” he added, “as we found on yesterday’s working. We are about half a day’s work down.
“If we had carried on the whole week we would have been quite a bit down.”
He went on to explain that by using the bath method a dustman had only to make one return journey per house, but under the new system they had to go back to the house, and thus make two return journey’s.
“I think it is obvious that we are wasting man hours,” he said.
Mr. Wheeler added that he had asked on Monday for a reason for the change, and the reason given was the amount of time taken to empty bins into the baths.
Reasons for the new instructions were explained by Councillor F. E. Brown, chairman of the Health and Sanitary Committee.
“I see no reason for the strike,” said Mr. Brown. “The men are not being asked to do more work, but to carry out their duties in a more hygienic manner.
“No one can dispute that the method of emptying the bins into the bath is very unhygienic and that some improvement in this obsolete method is necessary.
“The method the men are asked to adopt involves the carrying back of empty dustbins and the extra time taken is only fractional.
“Both sides of the question are illustrated by collection close to my home. In one case a neighbour’s bin is kept within eight feet of the window of the adjoining house and when the bins are emptied into the baths, all the dust is taken by the prevailing wind into the pantry through the window.
“In the adjoining house the distance of the bin from the roadway is about 25 yards and the new method will require and extra walk on each visit.”
Four o’clock on Wednesday saw the end of the strike when the men, after conference with a Birmingham official of the Municipal and General Workers’ Union passed a resolution that “We agree to resume work on Thursday morning under a strong protest, conditional upon negotiations being resumed at the earliest possible moment.”
The men were working in the High Street yesterday, and were tipping the refuse directly into the freighters instead of into bath tins.
A special meeting of the Council’s Health Committee heard of the men’s decision on Wednesday evening, Councillor F. E. Brown, who presided, told us: “The committee are unanimous that the new system is a much better one. We are all behind the Surveyor in the project, and we are going to see how it works out.”
The Surveyor (Mr. L. E. Johnson) said yesterday “The reason for altering the system was that this collecting refuse into skips is a very dirty method. I have had quite a number of complaints from townspeople that the dust and dirt gets blown over their washing and into their pantries.”