4 January 2019 by Joshua Doherty

‘Contingency plan’ sees Birmingham reduce collections

Birmingham city council has advised residents to use household waste recycling centres, to ‘minimise disruption’ to kerbside recycling services caused by ongoing industrial action.

The advice is part of ‘contingency’ measures put in place by the council – due to the latest phase of a dispute between the local authority and waste collection crews in the city.

Birmingham residents have been issued with ‘contingency’ advice on recycling and waste collections due to ongoing industrial action

Last month, over 300 refuse workers who are members of the Unite Union voted in favour of an overtime ban and work to rule over alleged payments to some members of staff following strike action in 2017. The industrial action began last week (29 December) and at present it is not known when a full service will resume.

The industrial action means workers work no overtime, adhere to their job grades and descriptions and contractual start and finish times.

This move has prompted the contingency measures from the council, which sees residents receive a single collection of residual and recyclable waste on their usual collection day, rather than separate pick-ups for the materials.

Residents should “continue to present their bins in the usual way” the council said, by placing recycling in the recycling bin and household waste in the residual bin, and collection crews will dispose of the contents “in the most effective way”.

“For residents wishing to continue to recycle, HWRCs offer an alternative option for citizens to dispose of all types of waste including recycling,” the council added.

‘Minimise disruption’

Cllr Majid Mahmood, the council’s cabinet member for clean streets, waste and recycling, said the plans aim to “minimise disruption and keep the streets clean”.

In a statement, Cllr Mahmood said: “Our immediate priority is to minimise the disruption to the people who live in Birmingham. We have a contingency, but there will be alterations to the way we process waste that is collected,” he explained.

“I know this will be of concern to residents who are keen to recycle as much of their waste as possible, but our top priority has to be that of citizens – clean streets for Birmingham.

“We thank those who are committed to throwing away as little waste as possible and look forward to swiftly resolving this dispute so they can resume their recycling – and if there is any disruption, I would like to apologise in advance and assure you that we will get to your bins as soon as we can.

“Both the council and Unite want to end this dispute as quickly as possible and continue to deliver the first-class refuse service the citizens of Birmingham deserve.”

The council hopes its contingency plans will avoid a repeat of 2017, where large piles of waste were reported across the city

In 2017 a series of strikes were called – although later resolved – over objections to changes in the waste collection service and practices from the Unite trade union and collection crews. The latest action relates to alleged payments to refuse workers who did not support the dispute, according to Unite.

Both the union and the council have said they are working hard to come to an agreement over the latest round of action.

In a statement, Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, said: “The work to rule is designed to be proportionate and to allow the council time to do the right thing. It will be disruptive, but the council should listen to the message from their workforce and take immediate remedial action.

“How the council responds will dictate whether this dispute escalates or is resolved. The people of Birmingham should watch the council’s every move and hold their councillors to account for their decisions and actions.

“Unite members have no wish to inflict disruption and upset to the people of Birmingham, but they have no option but to take action to protect their collective rights. The blame for this dispute lies squarely at the door of the council.”

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