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Birmingham refuse worker strike ‘could continue until Christmas’

Union members in Birmingham have this week warned that its dispute could continue until Christmas if the council does not attempt to reach a fair settlement.

The strikes, which were first tabled by Unite back in June are in protest of Birmingham City Council’s decision to axe jobs, a claim that the authority has refuted.

But now the union has said it is balloting its refuse collection members to renew its industrial action mandate, which could result in more strikes after the present daily strike action ends on 21 September.

Assistant general secretary of Unite Howard Beckett confirmed that the organisation was still in talks with the council, but that progress had been slow.

“In the absence of a settlement, we will be balloting our members from 17 August on whether they wish to take strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike after the current industrial action comes to an end in September. The ballot closes on 31 August,” Beckett explained.  

“The current round of industrial action is due to end on 21 September and a renewed industrial action mandate could see this dispute continuing up to Christmas. This is the last thing that the Birmingham public and our members want, so we again today call on the city council to move up a gear and negotiate constructively.”

On Friday, an open letter penned by the authority’s cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, Cllr Lisa Trickett, apologised to residents for missed bin collections, and said that the council was in talks with union colleagues to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

Despite the huge challenge posed by the industrial action, she said the authority has made great progress in tackling the backlog of missed collections.

“Lessons have been learnt through this contingency process that will be put into place if the dispute continues,” added Cllr Trickett. “It hasn’t been easy and I know your patience has been tested.

“We are fully aware this is one of the few genuinely universal services we provide so one missed collection is one missed collection too many.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson stated: “We have already introduced a number of different ways of working but we believe we need to do more if we are to deliver the savings and improvements (such as fewer missed collections) that the citizens of Birmingham demand.

“We have been in consultation with the trades unions about these proposals since January 2017. Regrettably, one of the unions (Unite) announced plans for industrial action – starting on 30 June – which are impacting collections in certain parts of the city.”

Top Image: Andrew Skudder

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