Birmingham bin strike: Workers ‘offered £3k to end dispute’

Uncollected waste in Alum Rock, Birmingham in 2017 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Unite says workers will stage fresh walkouts for two days a week from later this month

Striking bin workers in Birmingham have been offered up to £3,000 each to end the dispute, a council report says.

Huge piles of rubbish littered the city’s streets during a three-month strike in 2017, with many residents struggling to dispose of their waste.

Members of the Unite union are planning more action over payments made to non-striking bin staff from the GMB.

A Birmingham City Council report says mounting rubbish could also create a fire risk for tower block residents.

Unite is taking the authority to an employment tribunal scheduled to take place in February 2020.

If the dispute was to continue until then, the report adds, clearing the backlog of rubbish would cost the council between £13.5m and £28.2m depending on whether there were breaks in the action.

It says simply waiting for the tribunal would result in rubbish mounting on the streets, while paying off workers to end the dispute could set a precedent for other disputes with staff.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Could this be a familiar site for Birmingham residents if waste piles up again?

Birmingham City Council cabinet members are to discuss four options from the report to try to resolve the latest dispute at a meeting on Tuesday:

  • Do nothing and allow the dispute to continue
  • Pay off workers
  • Settle a planned employment tribunal
  • Take out an injunction to halt strikes

The council report said legal advice was a “reasonable, well-evaluated figure” for Unite members would be in the “region of £2,000 to £3,000”.

It claims the authority had “made a reasonable offer which the union has rejected on behalf of its members”.

Unite said it would “not be drawn on a figure” but it had set the council a deadline of last Friday afternoon “to make an improved offer to the workforce”.

It is currently costing £350,000 a week to deal with the fallout.

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Media captionCat flap locked to stop rodents as bin bags pile up

The report warns Birmingham’s trade and income could be hit and the “general image of the city compromised”.

But it says payments could “lead to an increase in industrial unrest, with union members choosing to strike because they would then be likely to expect to receive a financial settlement and not because of specific issues leading to a trade dispute.”

It adds there should be a swift end to a dispute that is causing mounting concern among residents and could cost substantially less to end than to keep fighting on.

Meanwhile, a bin worker said collectors were getting abuse on social media and “grief” on the streets.

Bob, not his real name, said: “Last time it felt like Birmingham was behind us, but the tide is turning.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The council said it was disappointed its offer to end this round of action was rejected

Howard Beckett, Unite’s assistant general secretary, said: “The only acceptable outcome to this dispute is one that ensures those who failed to take strike action do not financially benefit over and above those who took industrial action.”

GMB members received a payment because of a “failure to consult during the talks that ended the 2017 dispute”, the council said.

But Unite claims it meant its own striking members were “blacklisted”.


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