23 Labour councillors sign letter condemning Council leaders’ handling of bins strike and care workers dispute

They call on the leaders to immediately withdraw the threat of a legal injunction over the bins dispute, which has now escalated into all-out strikes.

They also urge them to agree to not impose working terms and conditions on home care workers, mostly female, in the enablement service, which supports people leaving hospital. A few days previously Councillor Paulette Hamilton, Cabinet member for Adult Social Care lead, had demanded that Unison accept her deal or face it being imposed on their members.

A motion from Unison to the Regional Labour Party Board asking the party’s national executive to investigate the Council’s handling of the disputes was passed overwhelmingly a few days ago.

The letter also blames the Council leadership for allowing policy to be driven by officers, not councillors.

Here is the letter from the 23 Labour councillors:

“As Members of Birmingham City Council’s ruling Labour Group we are deeply concerned at the position of the Council in relation to the present industrial disputes being followed by members of Unite the Union and Unison.

The current industrial action being pursued by waste management workers is the latest example of poor industrial relations in the local authority. The people of Birmingham are best served by a City Council that works in partnership with its workforce to deliver exceptional public services. We believe there is an urgent need to change the approach being taken by senior Council officers in conjunction with the Cabinet.

The intention of the Council to seek an injunction which declares the actions of Unite and Unison in relation to the current industrial action unlawful is misconceived and counterproductive.

The fact that the authority is reaching for Tory, anti-union legislation which the Labour Party is committed to replacing with a new framework of workers’ rights and collective bargaining only exacerbates the situation. At the same time it is apparent that the Council is on the verge of seeking to impose settlement terms on the enablement service staff having failed over a 15 month period to resolve a dispute where low-paid workers face dramatic pay cuts. These approaches are neither necessary nor desirable.

We believe that there is a wider issue of governance that is highlighted by the approach that is being taken to the various industrial disputes which the Council currently faces.

Three reports have been submitted to the Executive this year in relation to the Industrial Disputes.

Two reports have been called in and been referred back to Cabinet by the scrutiny committees on each occasion with concerns raised that the Executive failed to consider relevant information.

The other report on the waste management service was precluded from a call in on the basis that urgent action was to follow the report despite the fact that no such action took place.

In relation to the steps proposed in relation to the waste management service dispute there has been no policy agreed by the ruling Labour Group and the proposals have not been raised by the Cabinet with the Group. As such we believe that there is a democratic deficit which requires urgent resolution.

Local government requires that elected Councillors should set the policy and strategic direction of the City Council which is then implemented by the officers of the Council.

It is our belief that in Birmingham the elected Councillors are not setting the agenda which gives rise to the current state of affairs. It is apparent to us from the content and tenor of the reports that are being brought forward to the Executive in relation to the current industrial disputes that senior officers are being allowed to drive a particular approach to industrial relations which gives rise to confrontation and disharmony. In making this statement we are calling on the Leader, Cabinet and wider Labour Group of Birmingham City Council to immediately step back from the current approach to the on-going industrial disputes and to reset the relationship with the workforce and their trade union representatives.

It ought to be the case that a Labour Council is in the best position to have a positive and productive relationship with the trade unions representing the local authority workforce. As a Party, Labour shares the values of the trade union movement. We also have a shared vision for the future of our City and our society. There will be issues and occasions in relation to which it is necessary to negotiate with the City Council trade unions. We firmly believe that when those issues arise it is not only possible to reach an agreed way forward with the trade unions based upon our shared values but it is incumbent upon us to do so.

It is our view that a different approach to industrial relations is possible. To that end we propose the following steps be taken:

1. The City Council withdraws the threat of injunction proceedings in relation to the current waste management service dispute.

2. The City Council confirms that there will be no imposition of settlement terms in relation to the enablement service dispute.

3. In relation to the various industrial disputes facing the City Council open and constructive dialogue is pursued with the various trade unions using every means possible to achieve a settlement in the interests of all parties.

4. The Birmingham Labour Party and the Birmingham Labour Group should take urgent and proactive steps to restore a positive relationship between the City Council and the trade union movement including engagement with the labour movement, Party and Group that seeks to establish an open and transparent approach to industrial relations based upon our shared values.”

Signed by Sir Albert Bore (Ladywood), Mike Leddy (Brandwood & King’s Heath), Mike Sharpe (Pype Hayes), Mohammed Aikhlaq MBE (Ward End), Alex Aitken (Kings Norton North). Tahir Ali (Nechells), Olly Armstrong (Northfield), Nicky Brennan (Sparkhill), Diane Donaldson (Bromford & Hodge Hill), Barbara Dring (Oscott), Kerry Jenkins (Moseley), Zaheer Khan (Small Heath), Josh Jones (Stockland Green), Keith Linnecor (Oscott), Peter Griffiths (Kings Norton South). Hendrina Quinnen (Handsworth), Majid Mahmood (Bromford & Hodge Hill), Nagina Kauser (Aston), Mahmood Hussain (Birchfield), Zhor Malik (Balsall Heath West), Lou Robson (Hall Green North), Kath Scott (Sutton Vesey), Lisa Trickett (Brandwood & King’s Heath)

Read more in Jayne Haynes’ report in the Birmingham Post (online)

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