The Birmingham bins dispute is inching closer to an end thanks to telephone diplomacy, it has been revealed.
After months of deadlock in talks over the restructuring of the bin services and five weeks of strike action by binmen, sources close to the talks are suggesting that a deal could be finalised next week.
Council Labour leader John Clancy and the Unite union’s Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett have been engaged in direct negotiations in a bid to reach a deal.
With neither side winning the battle for public sympathy and anger on the streets rising every day the strike continues, both the council and unions were under massive pressure to end the dispute.
The potential breakthrough has come after the Unite union sent in senior national figure Howard Beckett last week and Labour leader John Clancy took direct leadership of the council’s negotiating team this week.
The Mail understands both have spent hours on phone and facetime calls with each other as well as conference calls with council officers and union staff representatives from their respective family holiday locations in North Wales and Spain.
One of Cllr Clancy’s political allies said: “It has been a positive few days - John and Howard have spent hours on the phone each day and made some great progress.
“They know they can’t afford to let this dispute go on and have sorted a few things out.”
Meanwhile, speaking on BBC Radio WM , Mr Beckett said that while he could not say they were ‘on the precipice of a settlement’, that ‘in the last few days it is fair to say discussions have been open and honest and have proceeded in a positive manner and given me some hope’.
A council source said that should the new deal be struck and the industrial action called off, a fresh report on the restructuring of the refuse collection service could be presented to the council’s Labour cabinet for final approval on August 15.
However for many, while a swift resolution and clean up would be very welcome, there will be anger that it has taken five weeks of industrial action and widespread misery for residents to reach the deal.
Opposition Conservative and Lib Dem councillors attending a protest on Thursday accused the Labour leadership of failure to provide a basic service and keep the streets clean.
Meanwhile the region’s top union official, Midlands TUC regional secretary Lee Barron, has called for conciliation service ACAS to be brought in if the dispute continues.