Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, will begin balloting Birmingham bin workers tomorrow (Friday 22 February) over grave concerns about the council risking the safety of workers and the general public by ignoring the 2017 High Court agreement, which ended the previous dispute.

Ballot papers

The deadline for ballot papers to be returned is Friday 8 March. If workers vote for industrial action then fresh strikes could be called by late March and run throughout the spring and early summer.

Unite this week held its first one day strike (Tuesday 19 February) in the separate dispute over the ‘secret payments’ made by Birmingham council to bin workers who did not take part in the 2017 dispute. The payment amounts to the ‘blacklisting’ of the workers who took part in that industrial action. A further one day strike will take place tomorrow (Friday 22 February).

Unsafe bin lorries

The 2017 High Court agreement established that all Birmingham council bin lorries would not be sent on rounds without a Waste Reductions Collections Officer (WRCO) worker as part of the crew. The WRCO undertakes a critical role ensuring the safety of fellow bin workers at the rear of the lorries and ensuring the safety of the general public in the vicinity of the bin lorry.

As a result of the ongoing work to rule and strike action over the ‘secret payments’ made to non-striking bin workers following the 2017 dispute, the council has been increasingly sending out bin lorries without a WRCO. This has resulted in highly inexperienced workers, often newly recruited via employment agencies, being sent to collect rubbish without a worker who assures their safety being present.

Full trial

Last week Unite (Wednesday 13 February) sought a High Court injunction to immediately end this dangerous practice but while the judge who heard the case noted that the ‘councils arguments have difficulty’, he decided, whilst making positive comments about Unite’s arguments, not to grant an immediate injunction but instead called for a full trial which will probably take place in May.

Unite cannot allow this unsafe practice to continue and has decided that it had no option but to go ahead and ballot its members for further industrial action on this matter.

Birmingham council

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Birmingham council is riding roughshod over a High Court agreement that ended the 2017 bin strike and by doing so they are endangering the safety of its workforce and the general public.

“Given those circumstances and the council’s refusal to immediately end this dangerous practice, Unite is balloting for fresh industrial action, in order to ensure the safety of the local population.

“While Birmingham residents will of course be concerned about uncollected rubbish they will also be alarmed that the bin lorries in their local roads are no longer operating to agreed safety standards.

“This dispute and the related dispute about secret payments and the blacklisting of trade unionists are both entirely of the council’s own making. It is Birmingham council who can end this dispute by providing workers with equal payments and abiding by the 2017 High Court agreement.”


Notes to editors:

Unite gears up for full trial following Birmingham court decision

Birmingham bin strikes to begin in ‘secret payments and blacklisting’ dispute

The strike dates that Unite has announced as part of the strike action over ‘secret payments and blacklisting’ are: Tuesday 19 February, Friday 22 February, Wednesday 27 February, Thursday 28 February, Monday 4 March, Friday 8 March, Tuesday 12 March, Wednesday 13 March, Thursday 21 March, Friday 22 March.

The strike action is in addition to a work to rule and overtime ban that has been in place since 29 December 2019

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.