Union suspends bin strike again

Union suspends bin strike again

Unite union have suspended the bin strike again, after a court granted an interim injunction against the Birmingham council.

A trial will take place to determine whether the council acted unlawfully in issuing redundancy notices. Until then an interim injunction granted on 20 September will provide some short-term security to the refuse collectors facing job losses.

Once the trial is underway, the fate of over 100 workers rests in the hands of the English legal system, rather than the refuse collectors themselves.

Strike action was previously suspended on 16 August, after the council had provisionally agreed to retain the threatened roles – a deal overseen by Acas. This was a huge gift to the council, as it allowed them to clean up eight weeks of piling rubbish, in turn relieving some of the mounting pressure from the public.

The council eventually went back on this agreement, conveniently citing legal advice that it could open the local authority to multimillion pound equal pay claims. The former council leader John Clancy even went as far as claiming that no agreement had even been reached with the union. This ultimately led to Clancy’s resignation and refuse collectors voting overwhelmingly in favour of extending strike action until Christmas.

Unite are now relying on the courts to rule in their favour, however, it remains to be seen how they will respond if they lose the eventual trial. After all, it is likely the council would much rather fight this battle in court rooms than in the streets.

Although local authorities are more than willing to hide behind ‘austerity’ to justify underfunding public services, claiming their hands are tied, there is little doubt the council will find money for the expected costly legal fees.

The trial to determine if the council acted unlawfully in issuing redundancies will take place in late November.

Comments

Tom Henry
Sep 26 2017 00:03

Good luck to the bin workers here.

I am surprised that garbage collection operations have not been privatised here as they have been elsewhere in the world - a thing done, at least partly, in order to break the collective power of garbage collector workers, particularly since it is possible that they can attain solidarity from other local government (council) employees.

The unions want to remain respectable and in control, as usual, and not risk big legal bills. But the workplace strength of the bin workers lies purely and simply in their ability to withdraw their labor.

The workers may have to suffer the hostility of 'the public', in which case the best course of action is perhaps to grit their teeth.

The union's position, in general terms, is always problematic and even conflicted. The union feels it has to maintain a democratic and reasonable veneer (despite regularly doing shady deals with employers out of sight), but winning a strike and backing workers properly surely enhances their prestige and subscriptions/membership in the short term at least?

QQ
Sep 26 2017 19:17

There's some good critique on the site which argues that even the most left leaning trade union will prioritise increased membership above everything and I'm basically in agreement with it.

But if the bin men feel like a trade union bests serves their interests in the current time, more power to them. However, I'm struggling to see what unite have done exactly apart from undermine them in this case? It was the bin men withdrawing their labour that put the council officials under pressure, not unite's botched negotiation with the council which they're now going fight in court rooms - something I think the council and probably the union would prefer. I just hope all those weeks of strike action wasn't for nought.

Tom Henry
Sep 26 2017 23:21

Yes, I agree on all points.
And leaving the union is not an option.