Birmingham city council has accused Unite of ‘holding the city to ransom’ after the trade union announced a vote on further strike action.
The union’s announcement is the latest step in a long-running dispute over proposed changes to working practices of the council’s refuse and recycling collection workers.
In a statement released today (11 August), Unite warned that the dispute could continue until Christmas, unless the local authority negotiates ‘a fair settlement’.
Unite said it 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.
“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.”
“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.
Mr Beckett continued: “During the dispute one of our shop stewards has been suspended and disciplinary action has been accelerated against him.”
The union has asked the council to protect the salaries of its members in the grade 3 role and drop the disciplinary against its shop steward.
Unite also said that the dispute was about safety of refuse vehicles and threats to the jobs and incomes of lowly paid workers ‘who could lose up to £5,000-a-year.’
Howard Beckett added: “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.”
In June Unite announced a 90% vote in favour of strike action by refuse workers at the city council. (see letsrecycle.com story)
The current pattern of industrial action is three one hour stoppages at 07.00, 10.30 and 13.30 which started today (11 August) and run until 21 September.
“Unite are effectively holding the city to ransom with this announcement.”
Birmingham city council
In response to Unite’s latest announcement, Cllr Lisa Trickett, cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, said the council was ‘very disappointed’ by the development.
Ms Trickett continued: “Unite are effectively holding the city to ransom with this announcement.”
“They have talked about red lines they wish to negotiate with us, but this threat of extended industrial action will not help the process of achieving a swift resolution so we can get on with delivering a modern, effective and efficient refuse collection service for the people of Birmingham.
“We have put the offer of ACAS to Unite as an open, fair and transparent way of ending the dispute.”