Council threat to axe 120 jobs and cut wages left ‘in tatters’ after it loses High Court case
STRIKING refuse workers in Birmingham suspended their action yesterday after a court blocked the city council’s plans to dump jobs and cut their wages.
Imposing an injunction, High Court Judge Mr Justice Fraser ruled that the Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council must call a halt to around 120 redundancies — 20 per cent of the waste and recycling workforce — alongside pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year.
Unite, which took the case to court, said the council’s redundancy plans were now “in tatters.”
Workers leaving court shouted: “Justice! Common sense prevails,” with one striker hailing the judge’s decision as “fantastic” and a “massive victory.”
The council also wanted to change a four-day shift pattern to a five-day working week, and downgrade the jobs of safety-critical “leading hands” who work at the rear of collection vehicles.
The workers voted overwhelmingly for strike action against the measures in June, and black bags full of waste piled up in the streets.
A compromise agreement halting the redundancies was reached through independent arbitration service Acas in August, but the council reneged on the agreement just days later and issued redundancy notices, provoking further strike action.
Following yesterday’s court victory Unite suspended strike action pending a further court hearing in November.
Mr Fraser, describing former council leader John Clancy’s management of the dispute and its ensuing chaos, said: “I could use the words remarkable, extraordinary and more.”
He said there had been an “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council as rubbish accumulated in the city’s streets.
Mr Fraser also criticised a “schism” between councillors and council officers, saying there had been “chaos” between senior managers and that at times councillors and officers were “positively working against one another.”
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett urged council chief executive Stella Manzie to step down.
He told the Star: “This judgement will be a huge relief to Birmingham’s bin workers who, in just a matter of weeks, were facing losing their job or pay cuts of up to £5,000 a year.
“As part of the ruling, Unite will suspend its industrial action until the matter is put before a full court hearing at a later date.
“The High Court ruling leaves Birmingham council’s unfair and unjust plans in tatters. The council needs to reflect on how it got here and the misery it has inflicted on the people of Birmingham and its own bin workers.
“We urge the council to stop wasting further taxpayers’ money in defending its dishonourable actions and honour the Acas deal which offers compromise on all sides and will settle this dispute once and for all.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesperson added: “We obviously accept today’s ruling which will mean further consideration by the courts.”