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Wednesday 20th
posted by Lamiat Sabin in Britain

Struggle goes on for Birmingham refuse workers as court battle continues

BIRMINGHAM bin workers will be supported by a strike fund and foodbank set up by the Unite union yesterday as they take extended industrial action over redundancies that could last until Christmas.

The Birmingham City Council employees backed an extension of their strike action — currently taking the form of three hours of non-consecutive stoppages a day — while their case against job cuts was at the High Court.

Mr Justice Fraser is expected to deliver a ruling today after a two-day hearing.

Unite said on Monday that its members had voted 92.4 per cent in favour of continuing their campaign, which was sparked in June by the council announcing plans to “restructure” its waste services.

Town hall chiefs proposed to cut more than 100 “leading hand” jobs as part of the scheme, as well as to change a four-day, nine-hour shift pattern to a five-day, seven-hour arrangement.

Union leaders had raised health and safety concerns, saying that “leading hands” exercised responsibilities which council leaders planned to transfer to lorry drivers.

The council claimed that it remains “committed to resolving the dispute as quickly as possible.”

But the union revealed that an agreement for the jobs to be retain was reached last month with the help of conciliation service Acas.

Unite also said: “Labour council leader John Clancy sent an email confirming the deal to all depot managers and instructing officers to implement the agreement.”

The workers called off their action, only for council chief executive Stella Manzie to claim that no deal had been struck.

The council proceeded to issue redundancy notices to 113 refuse workers. Unite restarted industrial action on September 1 and it remains ongoing.

Earlier this month, Mr Clancy quit and Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has called on Ms Manzie to follow suit.

Meanwhile, the constituency Labour Party in Birmingham’s Hall Green area has deselected councillors Barry Bowles and Kerry Jenkins as candidates in the next local elections, it was revealed yesterday.

Mr Bowles’s posts on Twitter have been critical of Unite’s backing for the bin workers, and his deselection suggests that support for the strikers is growing within Labour.

After the ballot result was announced, Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite members are prepared for the long haul and to take strike action up to the end of the year.

“This is not a step they want to take and one that will not be needed if the council honours the Acas agreement that was made in good faith.”