Birmingham’s epic bin strike was finally declared over this week, with Unite claiming it as a ‘victory for common sense’.
The announcement that an agreement had been reached came on Saturday (25th November) – just two days before a High Court hearing into the legality of proposed redundancies was set to begin.
Unite praised the “solidarity and determination of Birmingham city council refuse workers” as they backed the deal at a mass meeting.
The deal, reached by union and city council representatives at talks overseen by ACAS, means that the threatened Grade 3 role has been retained, with a change of job title and some added responsibilities – such as date collection for refuse compliance. The new roles will begin in February 2018.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This deal secures the grade three role and protects the pay of workers who faced losing thousands of pounds.
“It is a victory for common sense and a victory for the people of Birmingham who no longer need worry about the disruption of industrial action.
“This deal, which protects the livelihoods of hard working refuse workers, would not have been possible without the determination and solidarity of Unite members.
“Rather than rolling over, they stood firm through thick and thin to defend their jobs and the service they provide to the city of Birmingham.
“The stand that Birmingham’s refuse workers took and the victory they have secured should be an inspiration to others right across the trade union movement.”
The city spent a summer languishing in uncollected refuse after the workforce – with over 100 redundancies threatened – voted to take industrial action.
Despite talks, no agreement could be reached and in September – after criticism of his handling of the bin strike, including calls from some Labour councillors for him to resign and the threat of a vote of no confidence – Cllr John Clancy (Labour, Harborne) resigned his position as Birmingham City Council leader.
Incoming leader Cllr Ian Ward (Labour, Shard End) vowed to make ending the strike a priority.
Following the announcement Cllr Ward said: “I made it clear that my top priority on becoming leader was to resolve this dispute – the disruption caused for the citizens of Birmingham has been completely unacceptable, and everyone recognises that.
“This has always been about providing an efficient and effective refuse collection service for Birmingham, as that is what citizens rightly expect and deserve from us. Neither the council or Unite wanted things to escalate in the way they did, so I am pleased that through quiet, open and honest dialogue we have been able to reach a legally-sound position, going through the correct governance processes that we must always follow.
“The new Waste Reduction and Collection Officer roles we have jointly developed within our collection teams will focus on delivering a key element of the city’s waste strategy, the improvement of our recycling rate and raising awareness amongst citizens about how they can play their part in reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place.”
The planned High Court hearing has not gone ahead, with Birmingham City Council agreeing to pay legal costs. A court order is expected to legally confirm the agreement.