Birmingham bin strike back on after Clancy backtrack

By Mark Conrad and Dan Peters | 01 September 2017

Trade union Unite has decided to go back on strike in its long-running dispute with Birmingham City Council after senior councillors heeded warnings from senior officers.

The dispute with refuse workers, which has stretched out across the summer months, has led to piles of rubbish in the city's street and forced the council to bring in expensive agency staff. 

Birmingham, which had been due to discuss a deal struck between the union and council leader John Clancy at a crunch cabinet meeting today, rowed back from the agreement to 'protect its legal and financial position'.

Cllr Clancy's deal had promised there would be no redundancies but a private report from senior officers, seen by The MJ, warned him it would expose the council to a raft of equal pay claims, putting the authority at financial risk.

After a week of behind-closed-doors discussions between the political and managerial leadership, the council said it would stick with its original plan, which sparked the dispute, by issuing redundancy notices to the Grade 3 Leading Hands in the refuse service.

Despite backtracking from Cllr Clancy's deal, the council said it wanted to continue talking to trade union officials through concilliation service ACAS while seeking alternative jobs for those affected by redundancy.

Cllr Clancy, who was expected to face a serious challenge to his leadership if the cabinet meeting had gone ahead, said: 'The new waste collection system we are introducing will provide a better, more efficient service for citizens and will enable the service to be run within budget.

'We will be creating more than 200 new refuse collection jobs for loaders.

'These will be full-time, offering a range of benefits, including pension entitlement and sick pay and will replace expensive agency contracts which do not include these benefits.'

Cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, Cllr Lisa Trickett, added: 'None of the Grade 3 Leading Hands who are being made redundant need to lose their jobs with the council.

'Alternative Grade 3 posts - at the same salary in other parts of the council - are available for all those affected Leading Hands.

'No one needs to suffer a cut in their basic pay.'

An email to councillors from Cllr Trickett, seen by The MJ, added: 'Following a period of due diligence, we have come to the conclusion that the proposal approved in June is the best way to ensure we offer modern, effective and efficient services to the citizens of Birmingham.

'In the event of any further industrial action, please be reassured we have developed a contingency plan that would enable us to mitigate the impact of any strikes that may occur.

'I know recent weeks have been challenging, but we need to deliver a plan that will give the people of Birmingham what they rightly deserve – a reliable, modern refuse collection service and cleaner, greener streets.'

Senior council officers had warned that Cllr Clancy's proposals to end the strike could lead to a glut of equal pay, sex discrimination and maladministration claims.

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