The latest failure by Birmingham City Council to defend jobs and services against the swingeing cuts of this Tory government is leading to rubbish mounting up in the streets and around the base of tower blocks, causing a fire and health hazard, and also to mounting queues of citizens’ cars at waste disposal sites.
Rather than lead a campaign with other Labour councils and working-class communities against this failed Tory government and their failed economic policies, the John Clancy regime decided they would try and cut the bins workforce by 20%, removing 122 jobs, and also move them from a four-day working week to a five-day working week. The workers affected have already suffered two wage cuts since the financial crisis of 2008 but the council see them as an easy target for further financial punishment.
The cuts involved endanger the safety of fellow workers, members of the public and the wagon driver, as the three man teams will be reduced to two with the subsequent reduction of supervision around the rear of the lorry. The wage cuts that the council want to impose amount to between £3000 and £5000 a year.
The Labour Party have made a great thing recently about the need for workers to achieve good wages a fair amount above the national living wage. But in this case the service leaders on salaries above
£20,000 a year are being made redundant to be replaced by low paid workers doing the same job. Can we take seriously this talk about well paid jobs when a Labour Council is axing jobs with reasonable salaries to be replaced by worker not much above the minimum wage!!
The negotiations between the council and the unions broke down after nearly 60 hours of talks. The council are pushing ahead with the changes, refusing to take up the unions’ offer of mediation at ACAS, and the workers concerned have been intimidated into silence by threats of disciplinary action possibly leading to dismissal if they talk about the dispute. The Unite workers voted 90% for strike action against this draconian attitude and on 22 June Unite announced a series of stoppages leading to 3 hours every day from July 28 between 0600 and 0800 and between 1230 and 1330.
Not content with refusing to negotiate further in the face of a 90% strike ballot, Councillor Lisa Trickett, cabinet member with responsibility for the dispute, announced that agency staff would be employed at evenings and weekends from 21 July to clear the backlog of uncollected rubbish. This is a wholly bankrupt position of a Labour Council: employing strikebreaking tactics, showing contempt for council workers by referring to agencies as ‘partners’ of the council, and putting the council outside the spirit if not the letter of regulation 7 of the agency workers regulations 2003 which bans agencies from being used to do work that would be done by striking workers.
The strike committee is asking Birmingham residents to see their local councillor and ask why the council continues to refuse to talk to the unions in the face of ongoing increasing industrial action. They can be contacted on (0121) 643 6221.
In addition raise the dispute in your union branches and Labour parties and pass resolutions in support of the bin workers and against the Labour Council continuing to do the Tories dirty work, but also making a particular point of opposing the strike breaking activity by the Labour Council.