The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 8th September 2017

Birmingham council provokes new bin strike

THE GIANT union Unite last Friday announced a new strike ballot for refuse workers in Birmingham after the City Council cancelled a meeting to discuss a joint union proposal and then sacked 100 workers after promising it would not do this.

The union was shocked by the council’s last minute cancellation of a promised meeting of called to discuss a joint union and council proposal aimed at resolving the dispute, rapidly followed by the issuing of redundancy notices to 100 workers, which both parties had agreed would not happen.

The City council’s actions undermine a deal reached via the conciliation service, Acas.

Unite refuse workers resumed industrial action on Friday in protest at the council’s alarming actions and failure to uphold the negotiated settlement.

Friday’s announcement of a re-ballot could mean industrial action and dirty streets extending until 2018.

The dispute concerns the city’s plans to cut 113 jobs — the “leading hands,” who are responsible for safety at the rear of the bin lorries and to replace them with CCTV in the driver’s cab.

The union said this was unsafe and strike action began in June. Birmingham residents faced uncollected rubbish and dirty streets for seven weeks until the union and the council reached an agreement on 16th August.

That agreement fell apart last week when the council cancelled the meeting to discuss the joint proposal and sent out 100 redundancy notices.

Bin workers are also facing big pay cuts — those on £23,000-a-year are set to lose up to £5,000. One bin worker with a young family said: “We are already in debt on credit cards. If my wages drop further we will struggle to survive.”


The city is under pressure from the biggest cuts in local government history, £700 million, plus a £1 billion bill from equal pay claims.

Announcing the fresh ballot, Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “The council has given us no choice but to seek another mandate for action from our members.

“The past 24 hours have been extraordinary and totally at odds with the agreement Unite reached with the council in good faith through the conciliation service Acas.

“Frankly, the council leadership and officers’ treatment of this workforce has been shoddy.

“We reached an honourable, sensible agreement, which would have maintained the Birmingham council provokes new bin strike refuse service the second city needs and kept these workers off the breadline.

“It makes no sense at all for the council to seek to destroy this settlement and make our streets dirty again, quite possibly until the end of the year. Unite members do not want to strike but they are being forced down this route by the council’s destructive actions.

“Once again Unite appeals to the council to come to its senses. Respect the Acas agreement and do the right thing by the workers and residents of Birmingham.”

Anti-trade union laws require unions to conduct a further ballot of the members concerned should there be failure to reach a settlement within the 12 weeks following the initial strike ballot.

The new ballot will open on Friday 8th September, concluding on Monday 18th September. Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, said: “Birmingham’s bin workers deserve justice on pay but so too are Birmingham’s citizens entitled to clean streets.

“BCC [Birmingham City Council] wants to replace the bin men responsible for safety at the rear of the lorry with driver-run CCTV.

“I’ve asked Acas to bring together the council and unions. We need a settlement in days.”