1. ITV Report

Birmingham bin workers could strike again over Christmas

  • Bin collections in Birmingham could grind to a halt over Christmas if members of the Unite union vote to strike.
  • They could walk out from December 28th.
  • Last summer’s on-and-off strikes lasted for 222 days and cost Birmingham City Council more than £6 million.

A row has broken out over alleged secret payments, said to be up to £4,000 each, made by Birmingham City Council to bin workers in the GMB union.

Its members did not take part in last summer’s long-running strikes.

READ: All the details of last summer’s bin strikes

Unite claims the payments were a ‘sweetheart deal’, effectively a thank-you for not supporting the strikes – which lasted for three months and saw rubbish piled high across the city’s streets.

It is simply astounding. By making these secret payments, Birmingham City Council has effectively blacklisted Unite members for carrying out their legal right to defend their jobs last year.

We have pressed the council to explain why they made these secret payments to workers who did not go on strike, but have so far been met with a wall of silence.

As a result, the council’s secrecy and discriminatory behaviour has forced us to the point where we are pursuing legal action and now balloting for industrial action.

The residents of Birmingham should be aware that the last thing Unite members want to do is disrupt bin collections over Christmas.

We would urge the city council to come clean with our members and put a stop to its discriminatory blacklisting behaviour.

– Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary of Unite
Credit: ITV News Central

Unite has already lodged documents with the Employment Tribunal, claiming compensation and ‘damage to feelings’ over the secret payments, but this Friday ballot papers will be sent out to members.

If they vote to strike, bin collections will cease just after Christmas.

A spokesperson for Birmingham City Council said:

"We are committed to delivering the best possible services for citizens as that is what they expect and we are continuing to work to improve waste collections.

It is frustrating and surprising, just a few weeks after offering full support for the new operating model, that the leadership of Unite believe this course of action is necessary.

We will continue to work with our dedicated staff on the ground and all Trades Unions to ensure that bins are collected when and how people expect them to be.”

– Birmingham City Council spokesperson

Union GMB said its members have not received payments relating to not taking strike action and that some members had had pay stopped for standing in solidarity with their colleagues.

In a statement, the union's senior organiser, Stuart Richards, said:

"GMB remains committed to working with our colleagues from other unions in the interests of council workers.

We believe firmly that we are much stronger when we work together. This is why, over a number of months, we have made offers to sit down and talk about any issue or concerns and this offer remains open.

In the meantime, I can confirm that GMB have stood by our members and supported them when we believed the council did not comply with its legal obligations.

However, we were not party to any payments relating to not taking strike action, and it would be inaccurate and misleading to suggest otherwise.”

– Stuart Richards - GMB senior organiser
  • Last summer’s on-and-off strikes lasted for 222 days and cost Birmingham City Council more than £6 million.
  • The Labour-run council’s leader John Clancy was forced to resign after a deal he
  • personally struck with Unite proved to be unworkable.
  • The dispute was finally settled last November, with crews agreeing to work five days a week instead of four in return for the council scrapping its plans to re-grade 106 workers.