Over 300 refuse collectors, working for Birmingham city council, have voted for industrial action in a “blacklisting dispute” over alledged payments made to refuse workers who did not support last year’s long-running bin dispute.
The workers, members of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, voted by 94% in favour of strike action and 97% for industrial action short of a strike.
Unite says it wants the council to treat all employees doing the same jobs equally and not to “discriminate against employees because of their choice of trade union or because they have taken lawful industrial action”.
To this end, the workers will start an overtime ban and a work to rule starting at 00:01 hours on Saturday 29 December.
The industrial action comes after Unite claims the Council made payments worth “several thousand pounds” each to a group of refuse workers who did not take part in last year’s bin dispute.
Birmingham City Council, however, says no such payments were made.
“The individuals who took the decision to make such payments must be accountable to the public. This was blatant blacklisting – an attempt by the council to prefer workers in a union that did not take industrial action.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This is an overwhelming ballot result that shows that our refuse collection members are not prepared to be discriminated against, compared with another group of workers who received thousands of pounds for not taking part in last year’s dispute.
“The individuals who took the decision to make such payments must be accountable to the public. This was blatant blacklisting – an attempt by the council to prefer workers in a union that did not take industrial action.
“How the council responds will dictate whether this dispute escalates or is resolved. The people of Birmingham should watch the council’s every move and hold their councillors to account for their decisions and actions.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The leadership of Unite have made a number of claims as to why they believe that new industrial action in the Waste Management Service is now required.
“The position of the Council is clear and unequivocal; no payments were made to Council employees who were represented by the GMB union in the refuse service for not going on strike during the industrial action last year.
“GMB did initiate the legal process against the council for a failure to consult claim. The Council went into talks with ACAS and the GMB union which then led to a settlement payment for the GMB Trade Union.”
The industrial action will mean workers working no overtime, adhering to their job grades and descriptions and contractual start and finish times. Unite members will return to work base yards for washing facilities for every 15 minute concessionary breaks and half hour lunch breaks in line with the council’s hygiene regulations and instructions.
Unite has also lodged claims with the Employment Tribunal, saying that the payments are tantamount to the blacklisting of workers who took part in the long running bin dispute.