Britain’s largest union, Unite today (Monday 17 July) accused Birmingham city council waste service bosses of ‘playing games’ and being more interested in ‘conflict’ than finding a negotiated settlement to an ongoing dispute over plans to axe 121 waste collection jobs.
Attempts by Unite to negotiate a settlement have been thwarted by council bosses, who instead of attending planned talks, have withdrawn from them and begun issuing redundancy notices to Birmingham’s refuse workers.
In response Unite said it had ‘little option’ but to step up its industrial action with a further series of daily one and two hour stoppages stretching through August until 1 September.
Planned two hour stoppages on 19 and 27 July and 4 August starting at 06:00 will go ahead and now be supplemented first by a series of one hour stoppages. These start at 12:30 on Friday 28 and Monday 31 July and each day thereafter, up to and including Tuesday 1 September.
A series of daily two hour stoppages starting at 06:00 then kicks in on Monday 7 August concluding on Tuesday 1 September, effectively seeing workers stop work on a daily basis for three hours on these dates.
There will also be an overtime ban in place with workers also returning to depots for all lunch and tea breaks in line with Birmingham city council’s hygiene rules.
Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said: “We met with council bosses last week in the hope of agreeing a form of words that would enable us to enter into meaningful negotiations to resolve the dispute.
“That goodwill was not reciprocated by council bosses though, who instead engaged in game playing and withdrew from the process before proper talks could get underway.
“Instead of seeking resolution, waste service management has sought conflict by ploughing on with its ill-conceived plans for the service and serving loyal workers with redundancy notices.
“The blame for any missed collections rests squarely with council bosses who have shown themselves incapable of running the service, let alone capable of making any meaningful or positive changes to it.
“We urge the council to think again and start listening to its workers by engaging in meaningful negotiations to resolve this long running dispute.”
Unite has said that the overspend for the 2016/17 financial year, previously thought to be £9.7 million, had been confirmed by a top council boss as rising to £11.9 million contradicting the authority’s previous press statements that these cuts were due to budget cuts and austerity measures.
Unite members voted by 90 per cent for strike action over proposed job cuts to the city’s waste and refuse service and attempts by council bosses to tear up long standing agreements with the union covering staffing levels and working patterns. The workers also voted by 93 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
The ballot results came on the same day as council bosses announced that they intended to make 121 waste collection staff redundant, which is about 20 per cent of the actual refuse collection squad.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.