Birmingham refuse workers back on strike amid 'provocative' redundancy notices

Updated: 

Bin workers in Birmingham are back on strike after the city council decided to begin issuing redundancy notices.

Trade union Unite warned on Thursday night that Birmingham City Council's latest move was a "provocative act" after the sides initially struck a deal to avoid continuing industrial action.

But the city is again in the grip of strikes, as waste collection workers returned to pickets on Friday morning.

The union has signalled the fresh walk-outs could continue until New Year if a new deal cannot be struck with City Hall over local authority plans to shake-up bin collection services.

Many city streets and paths are still clogged with piles of black bags from over-flowing wheelie bins after recent strike action.

Seven weeks of strikes ended on August 16, after a deal between the union and city council at conciliation service Acas.

Rubbish bags piled high in Tarry Road, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)
Rubbish bags piled high in Tarry Road, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)

However, a crunch Friday meeting for leading councillors to discuss those measures was cancelled at the 11th hour.

Instead, in a statement on Thursday evening, the council said it would press on with issuing redundancy notices for some Grade 3 refuse workers, starting on Friday.

A spokesman said the authority wanted to "continue its ongoing discussion with the trade union through Acas in parallel with seeking alternative jobs" for those staff issued with notices.

Council leader John Clancy said the new system would "provide a better, more efficient service" for Birmingham's residents, which can run "within budget".

#3 on UNITElive this week: One Birmingham refuse worker says why he's on strike https://t.co/fBczcKstzW#BinStrikepic.twitter.com/VWYYONHssY

-- Unite the union (@unitetheunion) August 13, 2017

Lisa Trickett, who is in charge of waste services, added: "We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with Acas, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions."

Unite's assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: "This is a deeply provocative act that drives a coach and horses through the agreement Unite reached with the council in good faith at the conciliation service Acas.

"It does a great disservice to the people of Birmingham and the city's refuse workers who now face being made redundant and losing their livelihoods or pay cuts of thousands of pounds."

Rubbish piles up on the Beeches estate in north Birmingham  (David Jones/PA)
Rubbish piles up on the Beeches estate in north Birmingham (David Jones/PA)

He added: "The last thing refuse workers want to do is resume industrial action and see piles of rubbish accumulating on Birmingham's streets. This is their city too.

"Our members want to focus on delivering a safe efficient service to people of Birmingham.

"Sadly, it seems the council does not want to see that happen. Instead of embracing an agreement that would have seen compromise on all sides, the council seems content to put people on the dole and cut their wages by up to £5,000.

"Unite calls on the council to come to its senses and withdraw these redundancy notices to avoid the disruption of industrial action."