Summer Birmingham bin strike cost council £6.6 million
A hot summer of bin strikes in Birmingham has cost the council around £6.6 million, council officials have calculated.
The Birmingham Mail has reported that the significant cost to Birmingham City Council was racked up during the dispute with binmen belonging to the union Unite through ‘bringing in outside contractors, diverting staff and paying overtime to cover for striking binmen, extra landfill tax from cancelled recycling collections, legal advice and losses of income from recycling paper’.
Additional costs into the hundreds of thousands of pounds could arise depending on the outcome of a High Court hearing on 27 November.
The costs have been covered by dipping into the council’s contingency fund for emergencies or extraordinary circumstances such as the strike which played out between June and September.
Council cabinet member for clean streets Cllr Lisa Trickett confirmed the £6.6-million figure, explaining: “To fully understand the financial impact of the industrial dispute all the associated costs need to be identified and attributed.
“These include the cost of the continuation of temporary agency workers to cover the fifth day of work; the costs of the catch up contingency plans, including external contractors and the temporary deployment of some internal staff; and additional landfill tax as a consequence of more diversion to landfill and less income from paper recycling. This amounts to an estimated total of £6.6 million.”
The strikes have had a destabilising effect on the council’s refuse collection service, with problems continuing into October following the suspension of the strikes in September as 6,088 individual collections were missed in October compared to 2,386 in the same month in 2016, while 9,421 roads were missed versus 2,413 last year.
Furthermore, the council had to send twice as much waste to landfill during July, August, September and October than it did for the same period in 2016 due to the suspension of separated recycling collections for glass, paper, cans and plastics during the strike.
The strikes were called back in June in light of a council overspend of £9.7 million on the refuse service and a corollary downgrading of 113 Grade Three jobs (those responsible for safety at the back of the refuse truck), who were served with redundancy notices, and moving to a five-day week in order to save around £5.5 million a year.
In the middle of August (16 August), following seven weeks of strikes, an agreement was reached between the council and Unite following negotiations brokered by conciliation service Acas, that saw the retention of the Grade Three role with refuse workers moving from a four day week to a five day week in return, only for that agreement to fall apart and for strikes to resume on 1 September after the council rejected the deal and then-council leader John Clancy claimed that a deal had only been agreed ‘in principle’.
Clancy resigned soon after and the council drew condemnation from the Trades Union Congress, before workers voted to extend strike again in mid-September. However, a High Court ruling ordered the council to withdraw the redundancy notices served to the 113 Grade Three workers, with the next hearing set to take place on 27 November.