Birmingham City Council has this evening (Thursday 31st August) announced that it will go ahead with plans to change the current Grade 3 Leading Hand refuse collector role to a Grade 2 position, making those currently in the role redundant.
The 113 employees affected will be handed redundancy notices tomorrow (Friday 1st September) but the council insists that no-one need lose their job as other Grade 3 roles within the council will be found for all who want them.
With today’s earlier than expected announcement, the Unite union have yet to respond, leaving residents wondering if more strike action will follow the decision.
Strike action – which began in June – was paused on 16th August after ACAS moderated talks between the Unite union and council bosses. Unite and ACAS issued a press release at the time, stating that Birmingham City Council had agreed to maintain the Grade 3 roles.
However, the following day, the council made it clear that no such agreement was made on their part and cabinet was yet to decide. With council officers adamant that the changes had to be implemented, a decision which was due to be made at the 24th August cabinet meeting was deferred to a special cabinet meeting to discuss the Waste Management Report to be held this Friday (1st September).
However, the council has announced that the decision on the redundancies has been made and that special meeting has now been postponed for two weeks.
A council spokesman said: “In order to protect its legal and financial position, the council is issuing redundancy notices to the Grade 3 Leading Hands in the refuse service – as approved by Cabinet on 27 June. The notices will be received on Friday 1 September. The council wishes to continue its ongoing discussions with trades unions through ACAS in parallel with seeking alternative jobs for the Grade 3s affected by redundancy.”
‘Better, more efficient service’?
Cllr John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “The new waste collection system we are introducing will provide a better, more efficient service for citizens and will enable the service to be run within budget.
“We will be creating more than 200 new refuse collection jobs for loaders. These will be full-time, offering a range of benefits, including pension entitlement and sick pay and will replace expensive agency contracts which do not include these benefits.”
Cllr Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment, added: “None of the Grade 3 leading hands who are being made redundant need to lose their jobs with the council. Alternative Grade 3 posts, at the same salary in other parts of the council, are available for all those affected leading hands. No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay.”
More strike action to follow?
Earlier today, Unite issued an appeal to city council cabinet members ahead of the planned meeting tomorrow, urging them to uphold the deal they claim council leader John Clancy made in talks earlier this month – to keep the Grade 3 role, going against the recommendations of council officers.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “A return to industrial action is certain should the council officers get their way and this deal falls through. We would urge Birmingham’s cabinet to stand up to the unelected paid officers and do right by the city and endorse this deal.”
However, following the earlier than expected announcement, Cllr Trickett said: “We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with Acas, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions.”
We await the response of Unite on behalf of their members…