National and Devolved Politics

04.02.19

Refuse worker strike action to be ‘escalated’ in Birmingham City Council’s bin row

A new all-out bin strike in Birmingham is now imminent after the Unite union has promised that industrial action “will be escalated” after talks failed to settle the dispute with the city council.

Unite has given Birmingham City Council a 24-hour ultimatum after the two have been locked in detailed talks during the last week, but Unite said the talks have failed to settle the dispute and the council has failed to give a “satisfactory response.”

Around 300 Unite members went on strike on 29 December over payments given to other refuse workers under the GMB union after 222 days of strikes from GMB members in 2017 cost the council more than £6m in total.

Birmingham City Council then approved a move to seek a court injunction against the refuse workers if it refused a formal officer to resolve the dispute through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), as it alleged the industrial action was “unlawful.”

But the council’s move was met with fierce criticism from unions who called it a “declaration of war,” and the authority’s cabinet member for clean streets, waste and recycling resigned, stating that he could be part of the legal action.

Now Unite has said that the industrial action will be escalated after it claimed its refuse workers were having holiday requests denied, leading to the union lodging employment tribunal claims alleging its members have been “blacklisted” for their involvement in the strikes.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett commented: “This dispute is entirely of Birmingham council’s making, following the decision to secretly pay extra money to a small group of workers who did not take strike action.

“The council, not content with threatening the use of Tory anti-trade union laws, is once again penalising workers for taking lawful industrial action by denying their requests for holiday.

“This is yet another example of Unite members being discriminated against for taking lawful industrial action. The council should be under no illusion. Unite will not allow its members to be treated less favourably than other sections of the workforce, or sit back in the face of tactics designed to intimidate our members.

“We would urge the council to drop the pound shop bully boy tactics amid mounting legal costs and engage meaningfully with Unite to ensure that our members in the refuse service have parity with the rest of the workforce.

“If not resolved the people of Birmingham will not forgive the council for this dispute.”

We have reached out to Birmingham City Council for a comment.

Image credit -  David Jones/PA Archive/PA Images

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