Labour’s annual conference heard a furious attack on Birmingham City Council as a union leader condemned its handling of the bin strike.
Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of trade union Unite, said Birmingham’s Labour-run council was imposing “austerity” on staff and had “reneged” on a deal to end the strike.
And he accused Labour councillors of “hiding behind” Stella Manzie, the council’s acting chief executive, who he claimed was responsible for the council’s plans to cut pay for some refuse workers.
But the speech was condemned by a senior Labour politician, Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council.
Mr Beckett was speaking from the main stage during Labour’s Brighton conference. He said the council planned to cut wages for other staff once it finished with the bin men.
He said: “It is difficult in the time allocated to describe what is happening to the plight of 113 unite members who have for seven years suffered the public pay cap, now to be told by a Labour council that they are to lose up to £5,000 from their wages.”
He added: “This austerity is the thin end of the wedge for Birmingham.
“It is planned to bring austerity across all council workers. It is driven by one individual, Stella Manzie.”
He said former council leader John Clancy “did an honourable deal” with the union, adding: “But on the 31 August the council reneged on that deal, and issued redundancy notices.”
And he urged Labour councillors and MPs to support striking workers, saying: “It is not good enough for Labour councillors to hide behind talk of Tory budgets.
“It is not good enough for them to hide behind the likes of Stella Manzie.
“It is not good enough for them to talk of hard decisions. That language has no place in a socialist party.”
Although he praised Coun Clancy, his comments contradict Coun Clancy’s claim that no deal was agreed.
The speech received applause from Labour activists at the conference and some rose to give it a standing ovation.
But Mr Forbes, leader of the Labour group on the Local Government Association, said: “I am really upset that I have just heard in the hall a speaker from a trade union attacking a Labour council for the things they are having to do because of Tory budget cuts.
“That is doing the Tories’ dirty work for them.”
Asked for his response to the speech, Birmingham Labour MP Jack Dromey (Lab Erdington) declined to back Mr Beckett.
He said: “The city council has undoubtedly made mistakes but now we have a new leader determined to reach just settlement for bin workers, and one which delivers a high quality service to the people of Birmingham, who deserve clean streets.
“All parties now need to focus on an early agreement being reached, because this dispute can’t drag on into the autumn and winter.”
Last week the interim Labour council leader Ian Ward said that the continued criticism by Mr Beckett of Ms Manzie is not appropriate and unacceptable and should stop.
Although the strike action and threatened redundancies of 113 binmen have been put on hold until November the council and binmen are still a long way from reaching a deal to end the dispute.