Refuse workers at Birmingham city council were on strike today (Friday June 30), as the council swings the axe on 121 waste collection jobs amid claims of ‘a bullying culture’ and financial incompetence.
Unite has accused the council of ‘playing fast-and-loose’ over the union’s genuine offer to engage in talks with the conciliation service, Acas.
The refuse workers, members of Unite, began their strike today at 10:45. This stoppage will be followed by a series of two hour stoppages commencing at 06:00 on: 3, 11, 19 and 27 July and 4 August.
There was also an overtime ban with workers adhering to their contracted hours (06.00 to 15.37), plus returning to depots for all lunch and tea breaks.
Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said, “I have been offering talks under the auspices of Acas since 16 June. Yet, it was only yesterday that the council offered informal talks, having waited 13 days to respond to Unite’s genuine offer of substantive talks at Acas.
“It is for the Birmingham public to judge who is dragging their feet over seeking a solution to this dispute.
‘Fast and loose with members’ jobs’
“Our action starts as the council has played fast-and-loose with our members’ jobs. The blame for any missed collections rests squarely on the council’s weak shoulders. It has shown itself incapable of running the service, let alone capable of making any meaningful or positive changes to it.
“The 121 jobs the authority wishes to axe are safety critical for operation of the waste refuse service.
“We call on the council, once again, to enter into talks with Acas, otherwise this dispute is set to escalate in the weeks ahead.”
Unite has said that the overspend for the 2016/17 financial year, previously thought to be £9.7m, had been confirmed by a top council boss as rising to £11.9m contradicting the authority’s previous press statements that these cuts were due to budget cuts and austerity measures.
Unite members voted by 90 per cent for strike action over 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 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.
The ballot results came on the same day as council bosses announced that they intended to make 121 waste collection staff redundant by the beginning of July which is about 20 per cent of the actual refuse collection squad.