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.