Attempts to beat industrial action by Birmingham binmen by using non-union workers backfired when it emerged that hardly any of the 200 casual staff hired by the city council were properly qualified to drive dustcarts.
Most bag collectors were left kicking their heels at home during the Christmas week bank holidays after highways officials decided they could only put out a quarter of the usual number of crews.
Several highly-paid senior managers were diverted from their normal duties and told to drive refuse collection lorries, but depots were still only able to muster 19 crews for duty compared with the usual figure of 80.
With more than 400 council binmen, drivers and street sweepers working to rule, plus the impact of a one-day strike on December 21 still being felt, thousands of sacks of rubbish are beginning to pile up on streets across Birmingham.
Householders face up to a month of not having their bin bags collected after four unions involved – Unite, GMB, Unison and Ucatt – timed the strike for a Monday to cause maximum chaos during the following bank holidays.
A council spokeswoman said: “All casual staff who were asked to show up for work did so, but clearly we’re limited in terms of the numbers we can ask by the number of qualified drivers.
“We are asking residents to put out black bags as normal but, if not collected, put them on the edge of their property and they will be collected as soon as possible.”
“There’s a lot of catching up to do and we have been hit by the severe weather as well.”
A GMB shop steward, who declined to be named, said: “We had the amazing sight of a manager in his late 50s, not used to physical work, being told to get out on the streets and throw sacks of rubbish into a van.”
The shop steward, who is a refuse loader, said: “We were told we could go home early if we picked up all the rubbish on the main roads, but if you go on strike for a day you don’t pick up strike work without extra payments.”
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the council’s opposition Labour group, said: “This whole thing is a shambles.
“We appear to be taking on all these casual workers at great extra cost and I have written to the chief executive asking for a financial breakdown.”
Sir Albert (Lab, Ladywood) urged council leaders to get back around the negotiating table with the unions.