Union and council bosses are scheduled to continue talks to resolve the ongoing dispute over refuse collection in Birmingham. In the meantime, Unite have announced extended strike action through September and Birmingham City Council are attempting to clear up the backlog of waste collections.
A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council said: “Positive discussions are continuing to take place with the unions and we hope to be able to resolve this sooner rather than later. This has always been about delivering reliable, efficient and value for money waste collection services in the city.”
Third of backlog cleared
And she confirmed that a third of the city had seen backlog collected by Friday (28th July). She said: “We continue to build on the clear-up work carried out over the weekend. Crews are focusing on the hotspot areas across the city, and so far 2,600 roads, a third of the city, have been cleared. We will work through the remaining areas in the coming days to tackle the backlog and get collections back on track. We appreciate this has been a frustrating time for Birmingham citizens and we thank them for their ongoing patience as we seek to resolve the dispute with the unions as quickly as possible.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, who is leading the union’s teams in talks, said: “We are making every effort to resolve this dispute and, hopefully, we can hold talks with Cllr Clancy [leader of Birmingham City Council] very soon, otherwise the industrial action already planned to run up to the middle of September will escalate.”
Union defends action
Mr Beckett defended strike action saying: “I would also ask the Birmingham public to understand that strike action is a last resort for our members and places them in considerable financial hardship. The reality is they have been left with no choice because of the regrade of their jobs and loss of income which is simply unaffordable for our members.
“If members of the public place themselves in our members’ shoes, they will know that losing thousands of pounds a year in income means missing mortgage payments, failing to keep up with their rents and not being able feed their children” he added.
Confusion for residents
With an apparent battle of interpretations, the union and council still appear to be unable to agree on what the service changes really mean.
Unite say that 121 workers are under threat of redundancy if they don’t accept a pay cut as their role is downgraded and the council claim they will be offered other jobs at their current grade, that no-one is to lose their job and new roles are being created.
Mr Beckett said: “We have legitimate safety concerns about what the council proposes and are concerned that workers on as little as £21,000-a-year could face a pay cut of up to £5,000, if they are downgraded, which is unacceptable.”
However, the council spokeswoman said: “We would stress that changes to the service involve no job losses, no cuts to basic salary and 220 permanent new jobs.”
The current daily schedule of strike action:
- 28th July – 10th August: 0600-0800hrs and 1230-1330hrs
- 11th August – 21st September: 0700-0800hrs, 1030-1130hrs and 1330-1430hrs
- In addition, refuse workers are still operating an overtime ban and returning to base for breaks