Conservative councillors and union officials are demanding city council leaders come clean over the cause of the bin dispute blighting the city's streets.

Conservative councillors Deirdre Alden and Robert Alden and the local leader of the GMB union, Joe Morgan, have each demanded "full transparency" from the city's Labour leadership around the deal done with dustmen that triggered the bins chaos.

The call comes amid fears that rats are feasting on festive leftovers in bin bags piled up in some streets which have not had their rubbish collected since before Christmas.

The dispute is entering its third week and so far attempts to break the deadlock between Unite the union and the city council have come to nothing.

They are currently in talks with conciliation service ACAS.

Bin bags and rubbish piling up outside homes on Cottrills Lane in Alum Rock.

The spat came about when news leaked out that the 30 or so bin workers affiliated to the union GMB had received 'secret' payments in early 2018 from the city council.

The Unite union, which represents ten times as many bin workers, claimed the payments were 'reward' for GMB because its members did not wholly join the 2017 bin strike. They are demanding 'full parity' by way of similar payments - a demand that could cost the city in excess of £1 million, according to sources.

Today Joe Morgan, regional secretary for GMB Birmingham and West Midlands, claimed his officials are facing 'targeted harassment and abuse' and have accused fellow union leaders at Unite of being deliberately misleading about the payments.

Councillors say only a full release of all details, including emails, minutes of meetings, the full ACAS deal and the total costs involved, will allay fears of dirty dealing over the dispute.

The Tories are also demanding the council curbs its use of "delegated decision making" - a process which allows a small number of senior councillors to make decisions in private. It comes amid claims that a third of all decisions are made under delegated powers.

"This issue highlights the inherent problems with the Executive’s excessive use of delegated decision making which serves to obscure proper transparent and accountable decision making," says the motion going to Birmingham City Council's full council meeting (Tuesday 15th).

 

They are also seeking support for an immediate review into the use of delegated powers, including comparisons with other local authorities and open discussions with all councillors - many of whom are not privy to the decision making process either.

Their motion calls for a monthly list of all delegated decisions, and associated reports, to be published on the council websiite.

In the meantime, we continue to receive complaints from residents about chaos over bin collections, with some claiming their rubbish has not been collected since before Christmas.

Rubbish piled on Membury Road in Alum Rock just days after it was cleaned up

One resident, from Hockley, told BirminghamLive she feared rats were tucking into Christmas leftovers inside black sacks piling up on the streets.

She said: "The smell is horrendous, the rubbish bags are ripped due to cats and even maybe rats eating out of them and the rubbish is all over the roads.

"This is absolutely shocking, I have made numerous complaints to local councilors and the Council House but nobody seems to care."

The dispute started on December 29, when the 300 bin workers affiliated to Unite union started industrial action.

Bin workers have agreed they will:

  • do no overtime
  • not do work normally allocated to another grade of worker
  • adhere strictly to working hours
  • return to base depot for any food or hygiene breaks

Around 30 members of the union Unison voted to join the dispute when they were balloted last week, prompting fears the situation was going to get worse unless negotiations conclude quickly.

What we already know about the background to the bin dispute

The dispute is over a deal struck by the city council with the binworkers' union GMB, which represents an estimated 30 refuse collectors. A pay settlement was agreed, thought to amount to up to £4,000 per worker, to settle a legal claim around the council's failure to consult GMB during the 2017 bin strike.

According to GMB, in a statement issued on Friday, opennness was vital to end what they described as "a series of unfounded and completely inaccurate statements made by Unite the union in the press."

Joe Morgan, from GMB, said the union's focus was to support members and act in their interests.

"In this case, we believed that an employer had failed in it's statutory duty and ignored Trade Union recognition and the collective bargaining process. We took the appropriate action to seek a remedy."

His statement also detailed in full the timeline around the legal dispute and the agreement to settle. It claims the payment was made to settle the union's legitimate claim for failure to negotiate with them.

He added that the basis for Unite's claim - namely that any payment made to GMB union members needs to be replicated to Unite members - has no lawful basis.

He added: "We would not normally seek to provide such a detailed statement regarding issues such as this. However, false accusations made by Unite officials against GMB and targeted abuse and harassment against GMB officials has left us with no alternative.

"We have asked the Leader of the Council (Coun Ian Ward) to also release as much information as possible regarding the claim."

He added: "We now hope that colleagues from across the labour movement will support and acknowledge our attempts to hold an employer to account and to stand up for our members."

Are you a bin worker or a resident caught up in the dispute? Tell us what you think in the comments section or email your stories to Jane Haynes jane.haynes@reachplc.com