Recycling Mixed With Waste In Effort To Clear Birmingham Streets

Residual household waste is being mixed with recycling as Birmingham City Council struggles to clear a backlog of uncollected waste following refuse worker strikes.

The collections are mixing all materials into a single vehicle as the council clears waste that has gone uncollected for “several weeks”, according to reports by BBC News. The waste is reportedly being sent for incineration.

The council told BBC News that the combining of residual waste and recyclate separated by residents was a “regrettable but temporary” measure.

The news comes as Unite the Union announce that talks are back on the table with the council. It says the city council indicated a “willingness to re-enter negotiations”.

Birmingham City Council’s refuse collection crew voted for strike action in June, following what Unite called “a bullying culture” and “financial incompetence”.

“We have legitimate safety concerns about what the council proposes and are concerned that workers on as little as £21,000-a-year could face a pay cut of up to £5,000, if they are downgraded, which is unacceptable…”

The Union accused the council of an overspend of £11.9m, which it says contradicts the authority’s previous press statements that the axing of 122 refuse staff positions were due to budget cuts and austerity measures.

The council said it needs to find ways of saving in the region of £10m more on an annual basis.

Since 2010, local government has faced the brunt of the cuts to public spending with 37% cut from the local government budget between 2010 and 2015, with a further 56% due to be axed by 2019/20.

Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place at Birmingham City Council, said there are more “cost effective” ways of working in refuse collection.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “In the talks both sides set out their issues. The council restated the very fair and reasonable options it had given for refuse workers affected by reorganisation proposals.

“There will be no job losses for those who wish to remain with the council and there are options ranging from alternatives at the same grade, to promotional opportunities to staying within the refuse service, or taking redundancy.

“The council is operating in difficult times. We are focused on providing reliable, effective refuse collection for citizens and we want to work with trades unions to do that. If that means taking difficult decisions the council will do so, even where at times it means difficult industrial relations which we are actively trying to resolve. We will be cleaning up rubbish over the weekend and next week.”

Unite said that talks had broken down and that the strike dates had been extended to September.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “We are making every effort to resolve this dispute and, hopefully, we can hold talks with Cllr Clancy very soon, otherwise the industrial action already planned to run up to the middle of September will escalate.

“We are seeking assurances that our workplace reps are not being targeted for disciplinary action.

“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. The reality is they have been left with no choice because of the regrade of their jobs and loss of income which is simply unaffordable for our members.

“If members of the public place themselves in our members’ shoes, they will know that losing thousands of pounds a year in income means  missing mortgage payments, failing to keep up with their rents and not being able feed their children.”


According to Unite, at present, each refuse collection vehicle has a three-person crew – a driver and two at the back, one of which is responsible for safety. It says the council wants to downgrade the worker at the rear responsible for safety and make the driver responsible for safety both at the front and back of the vehicle.

Mr Beckett said: “We have legitimate safety concerns about what the council proposes and are concerned that workers on as little as £21,000-a-year could face a pay cut of up to £5,000, if they are downgraded, which is unacceptable…

“We want them to listen to our plans to maximise recycling revenue and we will listen to them about changed working patterns, 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.

“I would like to reiterate that the industrial action, being taken by our members in defence of their jobs and livelihoods, is lawful.”

Industrial action will continue. The current schedule of industrial action is: two hour stoppages from 06.00-08.00 on 31 July, and 1,2,3,4,7,8,9 and 10 August.  One hour stoppage between 12.30 -13.30 today (28 July), 31 July and 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10 August.

This will be followed by three one hour stoppages at 07.00, 10.30 and 13.30 from 11 August until 21 September inclusive.

On Birmingham City Council’s Twitter page, it is advising residents to leave waste for collection at the edge of properties.

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