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Binmen set to strike over threat to axe 120 jobs

Binmen set to strike over threat to axe 120 jobs

Birmingham’s binmen have voted overwhelmingly for strike action over council plans to axe 122 jobs.

Members of the Unite union voted by 90 per cent to strike, with 93 per cent in support of industrial action short of a strike.

The ballot was called amid concerns over job cuts.

Birmingham binmen at work
Birmingham binmen at work

The union said it would now consider its next move in the dispute, based around changes to working patterns, including a reduction in the number of staff on rounds and concerns around safety of binmen loading dustcarts.

Unite said the ballot result followed the announcement of 122 job losses.

Labour-run Birmingham City Council said it was trying to modernise the refuse collection service, including introducing new technology, to make it more efficient.

But the improvement drive has suffered a string of problems, including a high number of missed collections over the past few months .

The service also went over budget by almost £10 million in 2016 and the service has been propped up by agency staff.

Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said the council’s waste management service had announced it intended to make 122 waste collection staff redundant in two weeks’ time.

She said: “Loyal employees, who have worked, in some cases, for up to 30 years in waste services, are being told they are no longer wanted and need to find alternative work.

“The loss of jobs in this area is a disgrace, as bosses continue to increase recruiting agency workers – there appears to be no coherent workplace planning by the council.

“We discovered during the farcical consultation that the management has been instructing our members to collect side waste (boxes and bags left beside the bins) even though it is not budgeted for; to collect ‘green’ waste from residents who have not paid for this service.

Coun Lisa Trickett.
Coun Lisa Trickett.

“The sad thing is that our members are going to pay the price for this incompetence with their jobs and Birmingham taxpayers are picking up the tab for mismanagement of waste services.”

The union would have to give a week’s notice of strike action.

The council’s bin boss, Coun Lisa Trickett, said: “We are very disappointed by the result of the ballot, taken by just one of the unions representing the waste collection workforce (Unite).

“The city council, as a responsible employer, has consulted extensively with the unions on a new waste services operating model proposal since January 2017.

“In a genuine attempt to reach agreement, the council went beyond its obligation to consult for 45 days, extending on a number of instances up to 112 days – more than double the time required by law.

“Under our plans, alternative employment within the council will be offered for those affected, minimising the impact and stabilising and securing the workforce.

“It is regrettable that one union has refused to acknowledge the need for changes in working methods that are required to ensure the council’s services are on a sound financial footing.

“Without the changes we are proposing the council would need to find £10million extra per year to keep things as they are, potentially risking delivery of other unrelated services to citizens.

“We know the efficiency of our crews that work four nine-hour days is not as good as that achieved by crews working five seven-and-a-half-hour days in other cities.

“If we can move into line with other councils we will help Birmingham save £4 million a year, and deliver a better service for citizens.

“The way Birmingham’s waste management service currently operates is no longer modern or efficient and does not offer best value for taxpayers.

“We urge the union to reconsider its stance on this issue as a matter of urgency.”

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