High Court judge rules against Unite in Birmingham bin dispute

The High Court has refused to grant a temporary injunction against Birmingham City to prevent bin collections going ahead.

Judge Jason Coppel QC dismissed Unite’s application to make an order to stop the council sending out domestic waste and recycling lorries without an employee of a certain grade on board, saying stopping collections would make matters worse. The union is now preparing for a full trial

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “While the court has not felt able to give an interim injunction pending the final hearing, Unite is pleased that the judge has recognised that there needs to be a full trial held on ‘serious issues’ as quickly as possible, to investigate whether Birmingham council is undermining the 2017 High Court agreement.

“We welcome the observations of the judge to the effect that ‘although it is not for him to decide on the merits of the case, that the councils arguments have difficulty’. The court today sent a clear message to the council that the union has the better arguments and can expect to achieve an injunction at the full hearing.

“Unite believes that the trial will fully reveal how Birmingham council has been in breach of the agreement, for a number of months, that all bin lorries must have a safety critical worker in attendance when they are operating.

“Birmingham council’s decision to undermine the High Court agreement is jeopardising the safety of residents and workers alike.

“As there is no immediate injunction we have no option but to consult tomorrow with our reps and members about escalating the industrial action, in order to ensure workers are no longer being placed in danger.

“If Birmingham council does not give an immediate assurance that it will abide by the 2017 agreement and restore safety critical staff to all bin lorries, Unite will be forced to ballot for industrial action on this matter.”

The current dispute, involving over 300 refuse workers, is a result of the council making secret payments to workers who did not take part in the 2017 bin strike. Unite believes the payments amounted to its members being blacklisted by the council and is pursing legal claims through an employment tribunal.

The industrial action will intensify next week with workers starting a programme of strike action from Tuesday 19 February. The two days a week of strike action is in addition to an overtime ban and the work to rule which started on Saturday 29 December 2018.

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