TUC condemns Birmingham Council as council leader resigns over bin strike
The Trades Union Congress unanimously supported an emergency motion on Tuesday (12 September) condemning Birmingham City Council for reneging on a deal struck by the conciliation service Acas between the council and striking refuse workers belonging to the trade union Unite, a day after council leader John Clancy resigned over his handling of the dispute.
The dispute, which has rumbled on since the end of June, hinges on Birmingham City Council’s plans to make 122 Grade Three refuse workers (those responsible for safety at the back of the refuse collection vehicle) redundant and accusations of financial mismanagement on the part of the council.
In the middle of August (16 August), following seven weeks of strikes, an agreement was reached between the council and Unite, only for that agreement to fall apart and for strikes to resume on 1 September after the council rejected the deal and council leader Clancy claimed that a deal had only been agreed ‘in principle’.
The motion passed by the TUC stated: ‘Congress records that the integrity of ACAS must be respected by employers and agreements struck at ACAS must be considered legally binding. The dangerous precedent of employers being able to break ACAS agreements would only lead to industrial action.’
Unite, which is to hold a rally in Birmingham this weekend (17 September) in support of striking refuse workers, is now seeking an injunction against Birmingham City Council’s issuing of the redundancy notices to its members, with the case to be heard today (14 September).
The TUC motion followed Clancy’s resignation over his handling of the bin dispute, prompted by letters from the government to Birmingham’s Improvement Panel asking for an urgent update on events and from Labour MPs criticising the Labour council’s handling of the affair, and a vote of no confidence from Labour council members in a private cabinet meeting.
Speaking to the BBC, Clancy admitted that he had made mistakes for which he takes “full responsibility”, saying that the actions he took to bring an end to an “extremely complex and difficult industrial dispute were done with the best of intentions”.
Clancy had been leader of the Labour majority council since December 2015, with Ian Ward now acting leader of the council.
Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett expressed his regret over Clancy’s resignation, but maintained his belief that a deal had been agreed and the dispute would have been over long ago with Clancy had honoured that deal.
Beckett also had some choice words for Interim Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, Stella Manzie. Speaking at the TUC Congress as part of the debate over the emergency motion over Birmingham City Council’s handling of the bin dispute Beckett, said: “These changes are being driven by Stella Manzie, a chief executive who receives £180,000-a-year and has in the past claimed £160,000-a-year in expense.
“Stella Manzie is wedded to austerity. She is wedded to a course that will allow her to follow these cuts in grades with more cuts across the council.”