Birmingham refuse workers announce dates for strike over job cuts
Refuse workers at Birmingham City Council will strike next Friday (30 June) in protest over 122 redundancies made by the council, despite accusations of financial incompetence and a ‘bullying culture’ leveled at the council, it was announced today (22 June).
The workers, members of Unite, will strike between 10:45am and 3:37pm next Friday, while there will also be a series of two-hour stoppages starting from 6am on five weeks across July and August (3, 11, 19 and 27 July and 4 August). There will also be an overtime ban with workers only working their contracted hours from 6am until 3.37pm, while all workers will return to depots for tea and lunch breaks.
The workers are striking following revelations by Unite that the council overspend for the 2016/17 financial year, claimed to be £9.7 million by the council, was £11.9 million according to a top council boss, contradicting statements that job cuts were down to budget cuts and austerity.
Announcing the strike, Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said that she has been in contact with the city council’s Chief Executive Stella Manzie to call for talks with conciliation service, Acas, in order to resolve the standoff between management and Unite, as management has refused to talk to Unite since industrial action was confirmed.
Commenting on the strike, Lynne Shakespeare said: “The council’s actions have managed to combine financial incompetence in the waste management team and now they have started bullying our members as the bosses attempt to cut full-time jobs. The council wants to axe 122 waste collection jobs after a woefully inadequate consultation with the unions.
“Unite also wants to preserve their jobs from an unnecessary cuts programme which has also seen a sharp increase of agency staff replacing permanent workers which is of no benefit to anyone.”
The council denies that the jobs will be completely axed, with Cllr Lisa Trickett, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, stating that alternative employment within the council will be offered for those affected, “minimising the impact and stabilising and securing the workforce”.
Trickett said last week that the council was “very disappointed” over the results of the strike ballot and stated that efficiency savings were necessary to continue to provide adequate public services and that Birmingham’s waste management service needs an update as it “is no longer modern or efficient and does not offer best value for taxpayers.”
However, in her letter to Manzie, Lynne Shakespeare said: ‘This situation cannot go on any longer hence our action ballot. I would invite you to join with us in non-binding conciliation with Acas as otherwise we shall have no alternative but to increase our action and fight this campaign on the streets, in the media and in the courts, if we need to.’
Vote to strike
The announcement of strike action comes a little over three weeks after Unite refuse workers at Birmingham City Council were asked to vote on taking industrial action last month (30 May) regarding the claims of financial mismanagement and threats of tearing up longstanding agreements on working patterns and staff levels.
The results of the ballot arrived last week (16 June) and revealed that 90 per cent of those balloted voted for strike action, while 93 per cent also voted for industrial action short of a strike.
The results of the ballot were announced just as the council announced it was making 122 waste collection staff redundant over the following two weeks.
At the time, Shakespeare called the loss of jobs in the area a “disgrace”, saying that Unite members were “going to have to pay the price for this incompetence with their jobs and the Birmingham taxpayers are picking up the tab for mismanagement of waste services.”