Birmingham Bin Strike: Union Seeks High Court Injunction [UPDATED]

Unite members working for Birmingham City Council’s refuse service look set for a fresh wave of strikes after voting overwhelmingly to extend industrial action, the union has announced.

The result of the vote, required under the anti-union Trade Union Act, comes on the same day as a High Court hearing where Unite is seeking an injunction to force Birmingham city council to withdraw the redundancy notices it has served on refuse workers.

With 92.4% backing further strike action on a turnout of 72.2%, the vote strengthens the likelihood of strike action stretching up to Christmas unless Birmingham council bosses “honour the Acas agreement and resolve the Birmingham bin dispute”, Unite says.

The current mandate for industrial action runs out on Friday 22 September. The recent vote extends the period for strike action by a further 12 weeks after the first day of fresh action, which is to be confirmed by Unite in the coming days.

“As this overwhelming result demonstrates, Unite members are prepared for the long haul and to take strike action up to the end of the year”

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Birmingham city council can be under no illusion of the determination of the city’s refuse workers to secure the Acas deal agreed between Unite and the council.

“As this overwhelming result demonstrates, Unite members are prepared for the long haul and to take strike action up to the end of the year.

“This is not a step they want to take and one that will not be needed if the council honours the Acas agreement that was made in good faith.

“Our members want to get back to work and serve the people and households of Birmingham, but are determined for a just outcome.

“We would urge the council to reflect on this overwhelming vote, honour the Acas agreement and end the misery its dishonourable actions are inflicting on the good people of Birmingham.”

Dispute

The dispute, which has led to refuse workers striking for three hours on a daily basis, is the result of plans by Birmingham council to “delete” the grade 3 bin loader role in a move that leaves workers facing pay cuts of up to £5,000 to keep a job in the refuse service.

Unite and Birmingham City Council reached an agreement at Acas that saw the retention of the grade 3 role with refuse workers moving from a four day week to a five day week in return. The council, however, issued redundancy notices to the affected worker.

The redundancy notices went ahead to “protect its [the Council’s] legal and financial position”, the council says.

“Alternative Grade 3 posts, at the same salary in other parts of the council, are available for all those affected leading hands. No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay.”

It also says it wished to continue its ongoing discussions through Acas in parallel with seeking alternative jobs for the Grade 3s affected by redundancy.

Cllr Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment, previously commented: “None of the Grade 3 leading hands who are being made redundant need to lose their jobs with the council.

“Alternative Grade 3 posts, at the same salary in other parts of the council, are available for all those affected leading hands. No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay.

“We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with ACAS, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions.”

UPDATE 22 September

Birmingham’s bin strike has been suspended following a High Court victory for workers.

Unite has temporarily called off the strike, planned to last until Christmas, after a judge granted an interim injunction to block redundancy notices being issued by Birmingham City Council.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “We obviously accept today’s ruling which will mean further consideration by the courts.

“The council wants to offer the best possible refuse service for citizens and wants to work with Unite and all the other unions to do this. We remain committed to resolving the dispute as quickly as possible and we hope Unite will support us in doing this.”

As a result of the suspension in industrial action, the Council has brought forward collections, which were scheduled for next week.

“From week commencing 25 September we will increase the frequency of collections from four weekly to two weekly as we continue to clear Birmingham’s streets.

“Please note:

  • Crews are working until 10pm each day – please do not report any missed collections until the day after your collection is due as we may not get round to your road until late.
  • Please continue to separate your waste – household rubbish in the grey lid bin and recycling in the blue lid bin.
  • Bins, sacks beside bins and paper may not be collected at the same time as we have different crews picking up different types of waste. All collections should be done within the days outlined below.
  • Garden waste – please leave your garden waste out on your normal collection day.”

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