Bin dispute ‘could continue until Christmas’, warns Unite

The long-running bin dispute could continue until Christmas unless the council negotiates a fair settlement, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today.

The union is balloting its refuse collection members to renew its industrial action mandate which could result in more strikes after the present daily strike action ends on 21 September.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We continue to hold talks with the council, but progress has been slow and we would call on the council to now step up and conclude this urgently.

“In the absence of a settlement, we will be balloting our members from 17 August on whether they wish to take strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike after the current industrial action comes to an end in September. The ballot closes on 31 August.

“The current round of industrial action is due to end on 21 September and a renewed industrial action mandate could see this dispute continuing up to Christmas.

“This is the last thing that the Birmingham public and our members want, so we again today call on the city council to move up a gear and negotiate constructively.

“This dispute began with Birmingham council having a list of demands. During the dispute one of our shop stewards has been suspended and disciplinary action has been accelerated against him.

“In contrast, the union has said protect the salaries of our members in the grade 3 role and drop the disciplinary against our shop steward and we can work to a settlement regarding all of the council’s further demands. The council must now step up and conclude a settlement.”

Unite has said that the local authority regarded the dispute as about working patterns, while the union said that it was about safety on the refuse vehicles and threats to the jobs and incomes of already lowly paid workers who could lose up to £5,000-a-year.

Howard Beckett added: “I would also ask the Birmingham public to understand that strike action is a last resort for our members and places them in considerable financial hardship.

“We are keen to discuss our plans to maximise recycling revenue, but we will not discuss low paid members with families losing up to 20 per cent of their wages because of historical mismanagement and Tory-driven austerity.

“To the members of the public suffering we offer our sincere sympathies, we ask them to place themselves in the shoes of our members and ask them to call upon the council to resolve this dispute.”

The current pattern of industrial action is three one hour stoppages at 07.00, 10.30 and 13.30 which started today (Friday 11 August) and runs until 21 September inclusive.

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.