Bin workers in court bid to block redundancy moves

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Refuse collectors fighting for jobs in Birmingham have asked a High Court judge to come to their aid.

Union leaders want Mr Justice Fraser to block redundancy moves by Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council.

He is analysing rival arguments from lawyers representing Unite and Birmingham council at a High Court hearing in London. The hearing began on Monday and is due to end on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Fraser heard that council bosses had outlined plans to make more than 100 redundancies earlier this year as part of a restructure of their waste and recycling service.

Unite lawyers said council bosses wanted to remove a "leading hand" role - and change a four-day, nine hour shift pattern to a five-day, seven-hour arrangement.

Union leaders had raised health and safety concerns - saying "leading hands" had responsibilities which council bosses planned to re-allocate to lorry drivers.

The judge heard that in July bin workers had begun industrial action. He was told that the dispute was continuing.

Unite had also taken legal action, arguing that council bosses' redundancy plans were unfair and in a breach of employment contracts, Mr Justice Fraser heard.

Council bosses were contesting those claims.

Union lawyers said they wanted the judge to grant an injunction which would block redundancy plans pending a ruling on that underlying legal dispute.

Council bosses have apologised for disruption caused by industrial action.

They have outlined plans for collection, and offered advice, in a statement posted on the council website.

"We apologise for the current disruption to collections due to industrial action by Unite," says the statement.

"From 1 September 2017, Unite have resumed their industrial action which means that workers will be striking for three separate hours each day as well as returning to depots for breaks.

"This will severely impact on waste collections and we apologise for any inconvenience caused."

The statement adds: "The new waste collection system we are introducing will provide a modern, effective and more efficient service for citizens.

"The waste service in Birmingham is the most expensive when compared to other major cities and has the lowest recycling levels.

"We want to significantly improve on those and the changes will support that."

The statement says "frequently asked questions" include whether "piles of rubbish" were causing a risk to public health and "I have seen a rat, what do I do?"

"Advice issued by Birmingham Public Health indicates that the public health risk associated with household waste is very low and can be easily managed by taking a number of the precautions," the statement adds.

"We offer a free service to treat for rats in residents' houses and gardens."

The statement goes on: "In light of the strike, consideration is currently being given to how the council can best compensate subscribers.

"Once a position is agreed by the council it will be communicated to citizens."

Earlier this month council leader John Clancy resigned.

"It has become clear to me that frenzied media speculation about the Birmingham waste dispute is beginning to harm Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Labour Party," he said in a resignation statement.

"I can see no end to such speculation, as ill-informed as much of it is, for as long as I remain leader.

"I have therefore decided to resign both as leader of the Labour group and as the leader of Birmingham City Council."

He added: "The actions I took along with my cabinet to negotiate an end to an extremely complex and difficult industrial dispute were done with the best of intentions.

"None of us are perfect, and I made some mistakes, for which I am sorry and take full responsibility."