All out! Birmingham bin strike back on

Bin workers in Birmingham are back on the picket line after the council went back on the agreement they reached with the union only two weeks ago.

Submitted by Ed on September 1, 2017

The agreement which had been reached secured the position of those refuse workers in charge of safety at the rear of the refuse collection vehicles.

However, as was previously pointed out by another trade unionist in local government, the agreement was still "subject to further talks and ratification by the Council Cabinet." In calling off the action before any deal had been finalised, the union gave up vital pressure on the council as rubbish which had been piling up in the streets has now been cleared.

Now, the council has backtracked, sending redundancy notices to over 100 workers yesterday.

In response, members of the Unite union have taken swift and decisive action, walking off the job this morning with picket lines set up at four depots across Birmingham. Members of Unison, who so far have not joined the strike, are also balloting for action.

As one worker on the picket line explained:

"The deal was brokered nearly three weeks ago between the council, union officials and ACAS. We stuck to our agreement, we paused our action in relation to the consultation going forward and the Grade 3 redundancy notices being rescinded.

"And then we were informed that late yesterday evening that the redundancy notices had been sent out. So the council have now breached that agreement and we've been left with no course of action but resume industrial action."

*Update 7 September 2017*

Job advertisement below a notice of the ongoing strike

Just a few days after issuing redundancy notices to over 100 refuse collection workers, the Council, adding insult to injury, began advertising job vacancies for the downgraded and lower paid role. Firing striking workers and then hiring non-unionised workers to replace them is a common union busting tactic. As well as being a tactic to break a strike, this is also a common strategy to divide workers between those that are unionised and those that are not; undermining the long-term capacity of workers to take industrial action in the future.

*Update 13 September 2017*

In this week's Birmingham City Council meeting, it was revealed that the council had opened 31 disciplinary investigations against refuse collectors, since strike action began on 30 June. As of 6 September, 21 disciplinary cases remain open and ongoing.