Birmingham refuse workers rally amid blacklist accusations

Birmingham refuse workers rally amid blacklist accusations

15 September 2017

WHAT: Rally to support Birmingham’s refuse workers
WHEN: Assemble from 11:00 Sunday 17 September 2017, speeches from 12 noon
WHERE: Victoria Square, Birmingham 

Birmingham’s refuse workers will be rallying outside the council offices in Victoria Square on Sunday (17 September) calling on Birmingham city council to honour the Acas agreement and resolve the Birmingham bin dispute. 

Speakers at the rally include Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, refuse workers and Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett. It comes as Unite today (Friday 15 September) issues legal proceedings amid accusations that the council was seeking to victimise and intimidate striking workers.

Unite understands that the council is threatening workers taking lawful industrial action and who are working to agreed health and safety regulations, with disciplinary action if they return to their depots for their rest breaks. Unite argues that the threats, if carried out, would amount to the council operating a ‘de facto’ blacklist. 

Today’s legal proceedings add to the legal woes facing the council coming ahead of Monday’s (18 September) relisted High Court hearing where Unite will be seeking an injunction to force Birmingham city council to withdraw the redundancy notices it has served on 106 refuse workers.

It also follows news that the local ward Labour party of councillor Lisa Trickett, who is the cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and the environment, overwhelmingly passed a motion in support of the striking refuse workers at its meeting yesterday (Thursday 14 September). Unite understands that Cllr Trickett spoke against the motion that passed by 52 votes to 12 with 4 abstentions.   

Commenting ahead of the rally, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The sense of betrayal among Birmingham’s long serving refuse workers runs deep. They do not want to see rubbish piled up in the communities in which they live and serve. They want to get back to work and get back to serving the households and people of Birmingham.

“It is clear that Birmingham city council does not want to allow that to happen. Instead, the council seems hell bent on engaging in industrial sabotage by reneging on a deal that settles this dispute and attempting to victimise workers for taking lawful industrial action and adhering to health and safety agreements.

“Birmingham city council should be under no illusion. Unite will not allow its members to be victimised, blacklisted or starved back to work. 

“We urge the council to honour the agreement it made at Acas and end the misery its dishonourable actions have inflicted on its own employees and the good people of Birmingham.”

Commenting on the legal proceedings, Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett added: “Our members are taking industrial action lawfully and within the council’s agreed health and safety regulations. Threatening them with disciplinary action amounts to victimisation and if these threats were carried out, would amount to Birmingham council operating a ‘de facto’ blacklist.

“Targeting low paid workers who face losing their job and pay cuts of up to £5,000 is no way for a responsible employer to behave, let alone a Labour council.

“Unite urges the council to drop these threats and honour the Acas agreement. We would also extend our thanks to the people of Birmingham, who despite the inconvenience, have always tried to put themselves in our members’ shoes and realise that refuse workers deserve better from this Labour council.”  

The dispute, which has led to refuse workers striking for three hours on a daily basis, is the result of plans by Birmingham council to ‘delete’ the grade 3 bin loader role in a move that leaves workers facing pay cuts of up to £5,000 to keep a job in the refuse service. 

Unite and Birmingham city council reached an agreement at Acas that saw the retention of the grade 3 role with refuse workers moving from a four day week to a five day week in return. Instead of honouring the Acas deal, the council without warning issued redundancy notices to the affected workers.


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.