A new Birmingham bins chief has been confirmed in a 'small reshuffle' of the Labour-run city council's cabinet amid the on-going dispute with refuse workers.

Cllr Brett O'Reilly vowed that his first action as portfolio holder for clean streets, waste and recycling, would be to contact Howard Beckett, general secretary of Unite leading the current industrial action, to get the failing service 'back on track'.

The Longbridge and West Heath ward member was quizzed on the current performance of the service minutes after his formal appointment at Full Council earlier today (Tuesday, February 5).

Cllr O'Reilly, who steps across from the finance and resources brief, stated the change from a four-day to a five-day working week last September - imposed by the Memorandum of Understanding to end the 2017 strike - could work.

Cllr Brett O'Reilly
 

He said: "Things were starting to improve (between August in September). With any introduction of a new collection system there is going to be a limited amount of disruption which is not out of kilter with what I would expect to see in any large organisation.

"Where we have hit the buffers is the industrial action, the working to rule, which doesn't benefit the citizens of Birmingham or anyone in this chamber.

"I would say the Memorandum of Understanding can work if there's a willingness on both sides, it will work.

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"I will be writing to Howard Beckett of Unite this afternoon to sit around the table, talk through what the issues are and get this back on track to reduce missed collections and improve the service for the citizens of Birmingham."

Cllr O'Reilly also emphasised that communication between the waste depots and call centre needed to improve so residents can be better informed about when their bins maybe collected during the current dispute.

Bin Lorry and Bin men at work
Bin Lorry and Bin men at work
 

He added: "No doubt this is a difficult task and there have been a considerable number of cabinet members and officers who have struggled to get a grip of this.

"I can only commit to this chamber to do everything I can to build on the work of my predecessors and get the improvements we need going forward."

Unite, which represents more than 300 Birmingham bin workers, announced earlier this week they are to escalate their current work-to-rule and no overtime industrial action to two days of strike action a week from Tuesday, February 19.

They are protesting because the council made settlement payments to GMB workers stating they 'failed to consult' with them over changes to the bin service.

But Unite says those payments effectively 'blacklisted' their own members for taking 'lawful' strike action in 2017.

 

The previous bins chief Cllr Majid Mahmood (Lab, Bromford and Hodge Hill) resigned in January over the cabinet's decision to take legal action against Unite which he branded as an 'attack' on the union.

It is feared the dispute could last a further year because the council cannot get a court date any sooner than January 2020 to resolve Unite's litigation.

Council leader Ian Ward (Lab, Shard End) said Cllr O'Reilly's 'excellent communication skills will serve him well' in the role.

He also confirmed Cllr Tristan Chatfield (Lab, Weoley and Selly Oak) would move across into the finances and resources portfolio vacating the social inclusion, community safety and equalities brief which is to be taken up by Cllr John Cotton (Lab, Glebe Farm and Tile Cross).