The Unite union has called for Birmingham City Council to respect its striking workers and bring an end to the current bin strike, after the High Court rejected the council’s bid to have the action halted on legal grounds.

Legal action

The council had applied to the High Court for an injunction to block the industrial action as unlawful. However, a High Court judge today (Friday 1st March) rejected the council’s application, declaring the action as within the law.

Now, Unite are calling on council chiefs to negotiate a settlement, saying they are ‘wasting taxpayers’ money on futile legal action’.

‘Dark day’

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, said: “Yesterday was a dark day for Birmingham city council. A council that has the privilege of calling itself Labour tried to use Tory anti-union laws to block lawful strike action. There are many who should hang their heads in shame.

“The harsh truth is that rather than listening to the democratic voice of their own workers, and putting right the wrong of ‘secret payments’ made after the 2017 dispute, the council has been more interested in trying to secure an injunction.”

‘Choice between rubbish piling up on streets or court action’

Defending the council’s actions, Cllr Brett O’Reilly (Labour, Longbridge & West Heath), Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Waste and Recycling, said: “We didn’t want to end up in court and we have done everything we could to avoid going to court.

“We have made a consistent, significant and reasonable offer and we had every reason to believe that the Acas talks, which continued until the last minute, had been productive.

“We repeated our offer throughout the talks and we’re very sad that the offer was not accepted.

“We were then left with just two choices: Rubbish piling up on the streets of Birmingham until 2020 or seeking resolution through the courts.”

Day of action postponed

The union have postponed strike action due to be taken on Monday (4th March) to ‘give the council the chance to do the right thing and end this dispute’.

Howard Beckett said: “The council needs to listen to their own workforce, stop blaming others for the situation they have created, do the right thing, end the disparity and so end the dispute.”

Current industrial action has been taken in response to the council making payments to members of a different union who did not strike in 2017, Unite claiming this is tantamount to the ‘blacklisting’ of its members.

Mr Beckett laid the blame with council officials. He said: “The council’s elected leaders need to take a hard look at themselves, find the ethics and morality that brought them to join Labour, and stand up to the council officers.

“The residents of Birmingham are seeing their rubbish pile up because of secret payments agreed by council officials and those same officials have for weeks now been busy trying to cover their own backs, rather than allow the elected councillors to resolve the dispute.”

Both sides urge negotiations to continue

For Unite, Mr Beckett said: “Unite remains committed to entering into further negotiations to end the dispute once and for all by agreeing parity payments for the workforce. In that spirit we have called off the strike scheduled for next Monday (4 March) to allow talks to proceed”.

Cllr O’Reilly also stressed the need to recommence negotiations. He said: “Now we would urge the trades unions to return to talks to avoid further damaging action.”

He added: “The very reasonable offer that was previously rejected is still on the table, but is conditional on all current litigation and industrial disputes being brought to an end, including the current ballot to finish on 8 March.”

Further ballot

Unite is currently balloting members for further industrial action as a result of the council ignoring the High Court agreement which ended the 2017 strike, by sending bin lorries out without sufficiently trained staff in place, endangering the safety of the workers and the general public.

The ballot for this industrial action will close on Friday 8 March and additional industrial action could begin by late March and run throughout the spring and into the summer.

Current strike dates and how it affects your collections

Unite still have the following announced strike days:

  • Monday 4 March (Postponed)
  • Friday 8 March
  • Tuesday 12 March
  • Wednesday 13 March
  • Thursday 21 March
  • Friday 22 March

The council has reduced services to a temporary fortnightly collection in an attempt to minimise the impact of the industrial action.

Residents are advised to put both their general waste and recycling bins out before 6am on their normal collection day (fortnightly) and leave them out until they have been emptied (collections will be taking place between 6am – 10pm, 7 days a week). Birmingham City Council say that 2-3 bags of side waste will also be collected.

To check when your next collection is expected to be, enter your postcode on the Birmingham City Council website. 

Lifford Lane Recycling Centre in Kings Norton (B30 3JJ) is open Monday to Friday 8am – 6pm and from 8am to 4.30pm on Saturday and Sunday. You can check the queue before setting off on the live webcam.

1 COMMENT

  1. Howard Beckett of Unite is quite correct when he states that elected members should stand up to Council officers in relation to the bin strike. This is also what we have been urging Councillors to do in relation to B31 issues, where it has become clear that some officers are refusing to co-operate when residents request that legislation designed to protect us, should actually be enforced. This is not local democracy.

    And, in view of the High Court defeat, how much longer can the Councillor Leader waste our money on the Commonwealth Games? Bin strike, litter and rubbish, knife crime and and Parkfields primary school besieged by angry parents – who on earth would want to visit Birmingham and what world is the Council leader living in?

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