Dispute set to spill out into the new year with council refusing to budge
STRIKING Birmingham refuse workers appealed to the trade union movement yesterday for support as council bosses stood accused of betrayal for backing out of a deal.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett warned that “rubbish could be piled high” until 2018 after Birmingham City Council cancelled a meeting scheduled for Friday and instead issued redundancy notices.
The dispute began in June when the council announced plans to make Grade 3 refuse workers redundant by October.
The strikes were suspended on August 15 after seven weeks of action when an agreement was reached between Unite and council bosses.
Council leader John Clancy has since denied there was any deal made with the union and wants to plough ahead with plans he says will “provide a better, more efficient service.”
However independent conciliation service Acas, which chaired the talks between the two parties, took the rare position of issuing its own clarifying statement over the weekend.
It confirmed that contrary to Mr Clancy’s claims, there had been an agreement made between Unite and the council.
Mr Beckett said he was angry for the people of Birmingham as he accused the Labour council of “industrial sabotage.”
Speaking to members at the Perry Barr depot, he warned that this was the “thin end of the wedge and if they get it through with you, they’ll get it through with others.”
Mr Beckett said those on strike would not be starved back to work and pleaded with supporters to “come to our aid because we are being intimidated and picked on.”
And in a rallying cry he said Unite would not back down. “We are a union, we will stand fi rm and we will fi ght you all the way,” he said.
A council report into the reorganisation plans dated August 24 shows £311,000 a week has been spent on external contractors in response to the strike action although no further details have been made publicly available.
Staff will walk out three times a day and Unite is set to reballot its members which could see strike action continue into next year.
Birmingham council said it was prepared for further talks with Unite and Acas, however Mr Beckett said: “My door is always open. John Clancy has my phone number, but he has not called me.”