Unite has announced that over 300 refuse workers employed by Birmingham council will begin two days of strike action a week, starting Tuesday 19 February, in an escalation of the ongoing industrial dispute.
The two days a week of strike action, will be in addition to the overtime ban and the work to rule which the workers have been undertaking since Saturday 29 December 2018.
Unite’s dispute with the council concerns alleged “blacklisting” of refuse workers who took strike action in 2017. The union claims that the council made payments worth “several thousand pounds” to a group of refuse workers who did not take part in last year’s bin dispute.
The council said that no payments were made to employees who were represented by the GMB union in the refuse service for not going on strike during the industrial action last year.
Unite – “The decision to escalate the dispute and begin strike action is a direct result of Birmingham council’s failure to treat our members fairly.”
The Labour-run city council then approved a move to seek an injunction against Unite union if it refused a formal offer to resolve the dispute through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) – a move which resulted in the resignation of Councillor Majid Mahmood– Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Waste and Recycling.
Following what Unite called “detailed negotiations” at the conciliation service Acas, Unite had set the council a deadline of the afternoon of Friday 1 February to make an improved offer to the workforce.
Unite says the deadline was put in place because it claims the council was “further blacklisting the workers” by refusing their holiday requests.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “The decision to escalate the dispute and begin strike action is a direct result of Birmingham council’s failure to treat our members fairly.
“Rather than settle this dispute and end the discrimination the council has instead chosen to try to utilise anti-trade union laws and is penalising workers who have been taking industrial action by denying them their holiday requests.
“Unite’s members have taken the decision to move to full strike action as a last resort due to the council’s refusal to make a fair offer to resolve this dispute.
“This dispute is entirely of Birmingham council’s making and it is in the council’s hands to come forward with a solution to end the discrimination experienced by Unite members. If they fail to do so then the city’s residents will regrettably experience further disruption to their refuse service in the coming weeks.”
BCC – “We utterly refute the allegations made and are extremely disappointed that the reasonable offer we have put forward has been rejected by Unite on behalf of their members”
Birmingham City Council said it was disappointed with the union’s decision.
“We utterly refute the allegations made and are extremely disappointed that the reasonable offer we have put forward has been rejected by Unite on behalf of their members,” a Birmingham City Council spokesperson said.
“The Unite statement is not in the spirit of ongoing discussions at Acas, but we remain committed to resolving this dispute and the offer is still on the table.
“As previously stated on a number of occasions, the payments to GMB members were properly made for a failure to consult during the talks that ended the 2017 dispute.
“We would urge Unite to continue talks as we want to resolve this matter, so citizens get the refuse collection service they rightly expect and deserve.”
The strike dates that Unite has announced are: Tuesday 19 February, Friday 22 February, Wednesday 27 February, Thursday 28 February, Monday 4 March, Friday 8 March, Tuesday 12 March, Wednesday 13 March, Thursday 21 March, Friday 22 March.
In the industrial action ballot which was announced on December 14. The workers voted by 94% in favour of strike action and 97% for industrial action short of a strike.
Unite the union also confirmed that members at Angus council have moved a step closer to industrial action.
The announcement follows a consultative ballot where Unite members voted by 98% in favour of holding a legal ballot. The move is in response to Angus Council “imposing changes to the terms and conditions of 140 staff who work in Environmental Services”, the union claims.
From April 2019, household waste will be collected from 06:00 until 22:00 which will mean that workers will be required to move to a day shift/back shift work pattern.
Unite members have raised concerns about the dangers of operating the service safely and effectively, and the negative impact that these changes will have on work-life balance.
Dougie Maguire, Unite regional co-ordinating officer, said: “The resounding vote in favour of moving towards an industrial action ballot at Angus council should come as no surprise. Unite members are furious at the proposed changes to shift patterns and working hours, which we believe will lead to a poorer service.
“Unite will now hold a ballot to defend our members’ terms and conditions. This result should focus the minds of Angus council or they will face imminent industrial action.”