Refuse workers at Birmingham City Council are to strike next week, says the Unite union. 

Last week, Unite members voted by 90 per cent for strike action over proposed job cuts to the city’s waste and refuse service and attempts by council bosses to tear up long standing agreements with the union covering staffing levels and working patterns.

The results were announced on the same day that council officials announced that 122 jobs in waste collection – around 20% of the workforce – were to be lost by the beginning of July.

Since the ballot, a large number of readers have reported that their bins have gone un-emptied, with workers leaving official council tabs giving reasons such as the lid being slightly open or the bin being too heavy.

Will you be affected?

The first day of strike action will see workers strike for just under 5 hours, with 5 more 2 hour strikes planned over coming weeks, at 8 day intervals.

An overtime ban will begin on June 30th and, from the same date, crews will return to the depot for all lunch and tea breaks, which will slow down their rounds.

When:

  • Friday 30th June – Strike 10:45 until 15:37. PLUS: workers begin overtime ban & return to depot for breaks
  • Monday 3rd July – 2 hour strike
  • Tuesday 11th July – 2 hour strike
  • Wednesday 19th July – 2 hour strike
  • Thursday 27th July – 2 hour strike
  • Friday 4th August – 2 hour strike

Council overspend?

Unite said that the overspend for the 2016/17 financial year, previously thought to be £9.7 million, had been confirmed by a top council boss as rising to £11.9 million contradicting the authority’s previous press statements that these cuts were due to budget cuts and austerity measures.

Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare has written to the city council’s chief executive Stella Manzie calling for talks under the auspices of the conciliation service, Acas, as since the council was informed about the industrial action, management has refused to talk to Unite to resolve the issues.

Council ‘bullying’ union members?

Commenting on the dispute, Lynne Shakespeare said: “The council’s actions have managed to combine financial incompetence in the waste management team and now they have started bullying our members as the bosses attempt to cut full-time jobs.

“The council wants to axe 122 waste collection jobs after a woefully inadequate consultation with the unions.

“The process was a sham, bordering on a farce – and that’s why Unite members will be taking strike action to protect services to the public in the UK’s biggest local authority.

“Unite also wants to preserve their jobs from an unnecessary cuts programme which has also seen a sharp increase of agency staff replacing permanent workers which is of no benefit to anyone.”

In her letter to Ms Manzie, Lynne Shakespeare said: “This situation cannot go on any longer hence our action ballot. I would invite you to join with us in non-binding conciliation with Acas as otherwise we shall have no alternative but to increase our action and fight this campaign on the streets, in the media and in the courts, if we need to.”

‘Regrettable’

Speaking in response to the last week’s ballot result, Cllr Lisa Trickett – cabinet member for said: “It is regrettable that one union has refused to acknowledge the need for changes in working methods that are required to ensure the council’s services are on a sound financial footing.”

Cllr Trickett said that changes to modernise the service had to be made, pointing out that maintaining the service as it is would cost the council an extra £10 million a year, putting other council services at risk.

She said that crews working five seven-and-a-half-hour days in other cities were known to be more efficient than Birmingham crews that work four nine-hour days, saying that moving in line with other councils would save the city £4 million a yer and deliver a better service.

She said: “The way Birmingham’s waste management service currently operates is no longer modern or efficient and does not offer best value for taxpayers.”

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