For the last couple of weeks, bin collections – refuse, recycling and green waste alike – have been missed in their hundreds. Some have been collected the next day but some have been left for several.
Many residents have expressed frustration at the lack of information as to why this is happening.
Apologies & Rumours
Birmingham City Council have apologised and asked residents to leave any missed bins out for collection as staff try to catch up.
Cabinet member for Clean streets, Recycling and Environment Lisa Trickett has expressed “sincere apologies and regret” at the diminished level of service. She told full council meeting on Tuesday (4th April) that she was taking the issue “extremely seriously and [I] will continue to drive forward an efficient, effective service.”
Birmingham City Council as an organisation has declined any further comment.
‘Binmen’ have been commenting on social media that changes in the level of service since temporary staff were cut several months ago are causing the issues.
However, some residents have said that workers on the street have told them that rounds aren’t getting completed as they’re unofficially ‘working to rule’ – following full Health and Safety procedures – as they’ve lost numbers and are about to have a pay cut.
There have also been rumours of industrial action.
So what is the real reason for hundreds of bins going unemptied across the city?
One long-serving binman told B31 Voices that there were proposals to cut their pay and to change their contracts for the 5th time in 9 years. He said that workers were disheartened by this as rounds only got done on their goodwill – cutting corners, missing breaks.
He also said that the loss of a large number of agency staff and a need for staff to take remaining holidays before the end of the financial year were adding to issues, meaning some rounds were getting missed or not completed.
One commented on B14 News’ Facebook page that the workers would like to see things improve. He said: “Most of the workforce take no pleasure from the current debacle and would hope to return to providing a service the citizens of our fine city deserve.”
Working to rule?
However, some residents have reported that binmen have told them that they are ‘working to rule’ in protest at recent cuts to staff and a worry that they will face losses to pay or hours in current re-negotiations with the council.
At full council on Tuesday, Cllr Trickett faced questions about the current lack of service.
Cllr Deirdre Alden (Con, Edgbaston) said: “Last week 788 streets missed one collection or another, be it recycling, household waste or both” and queried whether the missed collections were the result of industrial action.
In response, Cllr Tricket apologised, saying that performance had improved since the introduction of wheelie bins but said: “Unfortunately, the last few weeks has seen a change within the performance.”
She confirmed that there was no industrial action and that none of the trade unions had held a ballot.
According to the Birmingham Mail, Cllr Trickett also said: “Some crews, and only some crews, are slowing down and that’s caused a drop-off.”
Cllr Trickett did confirm that they were speaking to unions about plans going forward. She said: “We are currently negotiating with the trade unions on a future operating model which is part of our financial plan as accepted by this city council in February this year.”
So it seems there are no clear answers as to what exactly is happening at the moment and no signs of if, when or how any issues will be resolved.
In the meantime, residents are left to be patient, wondering if … and when … their bins will be emptied.