Workforce, Pensions and Training

04.09.17

Birmingham set for daily strikes after council confirms redundancies

Unite has threatened to resume daily strike action after Birmingham City Council leader Cllr John Clancy issued a “deeply provocative” letter confirming he would press ahead with redundancies in the waste collection department.

The union had originally called off the strike after a productive conversation with local authority management at Acas, but it was soon revealed that Birmingham had not dropped its plans to make workers redundant as part of a refuse service shake-up.

On Friday last week, the council started issuing redundancy notices to the refuse workers affected by the restructuring, which is intended to make the system work more efficiently.

It also cancelled a Cabinet Meeting for 1 September and postponed discussion of the Waste Management Report to 13 September.

Cllr Clancy said: “The new waste collection system we are introducing will provide a better, more efficient service for citizens and will enable the service to be run within budget.

“We will be creating more than 200 new refuse collection jobs for loaders. These will be full-time, offering a range of benefits, including pension entitlement and sick pay and will replace expensive agency contracts which do not include these benefits.”

The council’s Cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, Cllr Lisa Trickett, also promised that none of the Grade 3 staff who are being made redundant will lose their jobs with the local authority. Alternative posts in other parts of the organisation and within the same pay bracket are “available for all those affected”.

“No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay,” she explained. “We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with Acas, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions.”

But Unite’s assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, said Birmingham’s decision was a “deeply provocative act that drives a coach and horses through the agreement” the union reached at Acas last month.

“It does a great disservice to the people of Birmingham and the city’s refuse workers who now face being made redundant and losing their livelihoods or pay cuts of thousands of pounds,” argued Beckett. “The last thing refuse workers want to do is resume industrial action and see piles of rubbish accumulating on Birmingham’s streets.

“This is their city too. Our members want to focus on delivering a safe efficient service to people of Birmingham.

“Sadly it seems the council does not want to see that happen. Instead of embracing an agreement that would have seen compromise on all sides, the council seems content to put people on the dole and cut their wages by up to £5,000.”

As a result of the continued row, the union pledged to resume strike action, with refuse workers planning to walk out for three hours every day from 7:00, 10:30 and 13:00.

It also called on the city council to “come to its senses” and withdraw the redundancy notices. While Birmingham does not seem intent on considering a U-turn, it said it wishes to continue discussions with the union through Acas “in parallel with seeking alternative jobs for the Grade 3s affected by redundancy”.

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