Refuse collectors – members of the Unite union – have voted to take industrial action in the post-Christmas period as part of a row over claims workers who previously took strike action have been subject to ‘blacklisting’ by the council.
The Birmingham City Council workers are taking action over payments made to refuse workers who did not support last year’s long running bin dispute.
94% of the workers voted in favour of strike action while 97% for industrial action short of a strike.
Unite said it wants the council to treat all employees doing the same jobs equally and not to discriminate against employees because of their choice of trade union or because they have taken lawful industrial action.
Overtime ban & work to rule
The action will begin on Saturday 29th December, with workers refusing to work overtime and only working to rule. This will make rounds less productive with workers sticking to their contracted hours, working within their job restrictions and returning to base for breaks.
This will likely impact on catch-up services and clearing of extra waste after after Christmas.
Blacklisting payments row
The industrial action comes after the council recently admitted that it had made payments worth several thousand pounds each to a group of refuse workers who did not take part in last year’s bin dispute.
Unite claim that the payments were tantamount to blacklisting of striking workers and have raised the issue to the Employment Tribunal.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said:
“The individuals who took the decision to make such payments must be accountable to the public. To this end, we have openly written to each Labour councillor to explain the utter nonsense of the excuses given by the council for the payment to the GMB members.
“This was blatant blacklisting – an attempt by the council to prefer workers in a union that did not take industrial action.
“We are seeking a working environment where equality and non-discrimination are key pillars of the council’s working practices.
“The work to rule is designed to be proportionate and to allow the council time to do the right thing. It will be disruptive, but the council should listen to the message from their workforce and take immediate remedial action.
“How the council responds will dictate whether this dispute escalates or is resolved. The people of Birmingham should watch the council’s every move and hold their councillors to account for their decisions and actions.”
Council call for suspension to action
Birmingham City Council have appealed to Unite to suspend the action in lieu of further talks.
Majid Mahmood, cabinet member for clean streets, waste and recycling, said:
“The people of Birmingham want us to reach a swift resolution and our request to Unite the Union is to suspend industrial action while we take this dispute into ACAS.”
However, Mr Beckett blamed the council for the action, saying:
“Unite members have no wish to inflict disruption and upset to the people of Birmingham, but they have no option but to take action to protect their collective rights. The blame for this dispute lies squarely at the door of the council.”