Refuse workers at Birmingham city council, who have voted overwhelmingly for strike action, will be considering industrial action, as the council is set to cut 122 waste collection jobs.
The refuse workers, members of Unite, the country’s largest union, voted by 90% for strike action over what it calls “proposed job cuts” to the city’s waste and refuse service and attempts by council bosses to “tear up long standing agreements with the union covering staffing levels and working patterns”.
The workers also voted by 93% for industrial action short of a strike.
The ballot results came at the same time as council bosses announced that they intended to make 122 waste collection staff redundant in the next fortnight which is about 20% of the actual refuse collection squad, the union says.
Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said: “It is unfortunate that the day the ballot results came through, the council’s waste management service announced it intended to make 122 waste collection staff redundant in two weeks’ time.
“It is unfortunate that the day the ballot results came through, the council’s waste management service announced it intended to make 122 waste collection staff redundant in two weeks’ time.”
“Loyal employees, who have worked, in some cases, for up to 30 years in waste services, are being told that they are no longer wanted and need to find alternative work.
“The loss of jobs in this area is a disgrace, as bosses continue to increase recruiting agency workers – there appears to be no coherent workplace planning by the council.
“We discovered during the farcical consultation that the management has been instructing our members to collect side waste (boxes and bags left beside the bins) even though it is not budgeted for; to collect ‘green’ waste from residents who have not paid for this service.
“The management can’t keep to a budget, having created a huge £9.7m overspend in the financial year for 2016.
“The sad thing about this is that our members are going to pay the price for this incompetence with their jobs and the Birmingham taxpayers are picking up the tab for mismanagement of waste services.
“We are currently consulting with our members as to the next steps in regards to industrial action as all of the 122 posts due to be cut are in safety sensitive areas, such as the operation and safety at the rear of the vehicles.”
“Pressures & Demands”
Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place at Birmingham City Council, commented on the ballot: “As has been widely reported, the council needs to save £171m by 2021 and this is a challenge being faced by all service areas within the council.
“In terms of waste management, pressures and demands on the service continue, and mean we have to find ways of saving in the region of £10m more on an annual basis. Doing nothing is simply not an option. We need to offer our services in a more productive, effective and efficient way.
“The proposals we are consulting on will achieve all of these objectives and bring the council’s waste management service into line with many other councils nationally.
“For some staff this could mean taking up a different role, and there are sufficient vacancies within the new structure proposal to ensure that all affected staff have this opportunity. We are also looking at how we can make promotion opportunities available for those potentially affected.
“What we have developed is a carefully considered and informed model that will ensure our services are on a sound and affordable footing for the future.
“The council remains focussed on ensuring that all our services make best use of public funds and that we deliver high quality services to the public.
“It is evident that there are more cost effective ways of working in refuse collection. The consultation period has already been extended twice at the request of the trades unions to enable them to develop some alternative proposals.
“Management are committed to working closely with union colleagues to help them produce alternative proposals. It is therefore disappointing this action is being encouraged whilst we continue to work so closely.”