Birmingham bin workers ballot over new dispute

Unite is today balloting Birmingham bin workers over grave concerns about the council risking the safety of workers and the general public by ignoring the 2017 High Court agreement, which ended the previous dispute.

The deadline for ballot papers to be returned is March 8. If workers vote for industrial action then fresh strikes could be called by late March and run throughout the spring and early summer.

Unite on Tuesday held its first one-day strike in the separate dispute over the ‘secret payments’ made by Birmingham council to bin workers who did not take part in the 2017 dispute. The payment amounts to the ‘blacklisting’ of the workers who took part in that industrial action. A further one day strike is taking place today.

The 2017 High Court agreement established that all Birmingham council bin lorries would not be sent on rounds without a Waste Reductions Collections Officer (WRCO) worker as part of the crew. The WRCO undertakes a critical role ensuring the safety of fellow bin workers at the rear of the lorries and ensuring the safety of the general public in the vicinity of the bin lorry.

As a result of the ongoing work to rule and strike action over the ‘secret payments’ made to non-striking bin workers following the 2017 dispute, the council has been increasingly sending out bin lorries without a WRCO. This has resulted in highly inexperienced workers, often newly recruited via employment agencies, being sent to collect rubbish without a worker who assures their safety being present.

Last week Unite sought a High Court injunction to immediately end this dangerous practice but while the judge who heard the case noted that the ‘councils arguments have difficulty’, he decided, whilst making positive comments about Unite’s arguments, not to grant an immediate injunction but instead called for a full trial which will probably take place in May.

Unite says it cannot allow this unsafe practice to continue and has decided that it had no option but to go ahead and ballot its members for further industrial action on this matter.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Birmingham council is riding roughshod over a High Court agreement that ended the 2017 bin strike and by doing so they are endangering the safety of its workforce and the general public.

“Given those circumstances and the council’s refusal to immediately end this dangerous practice, Unite is balloting for fresh industrial action, in order to ensure the safety of the local population.

“While Birmingham residents will of course be concerned about uncollected rubbish they will also be alarmed that the bin lorries in their local roads are no longer operating to agreed safety standards.

“This dispute and the related dispute about secret payments and the blacklisting of trade unionists are both entirely of the council’s own making. It is Birmingham council who can end this dispute by providing workers with equal payments and abiding by the 2017 High Court agreement.”

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