Hundreds of thousands of people are affected and collections have been disrupted for weeks.
Refuse workers are set to strike until 1 September. From Friday, striking workers increased their industrial action from two to three hours a day.
Workers are striking due to a dispute over job losses. The Unite union said restructuring plans are threatening the jobs of more than 120 staff, the council plans to “modernise” the service and save £5m a year. In reality it will wreck an otherwise effective service with a good record.
The strikes are part of a national trend where discontented workers are taking action to oppose Austerity in the Public Sector.
Two hour stoppages will take place on 27 July and 4 August between 06:00 BST and 08:00. This will be stepped up to every morning between 7 August and 1 September.
From 28 July until 1 September, there will also be daily stoppages between 12:30 and 13:30. In total, there will be three hours of strike action every day between 7 August and 1 September. There is also an overtime ban in place and workers are returning to depots for all lunch and tea breaks.
Workers will be on strike until at least September unless an agreement can be reached
Birmingham Council wants to make changes to overcome the huge difficulties it faces due to Austerity Cuts.
Authorities, like Birmingham, want to save money. They see Labour that adds value as a “Cost” but how can refuse collection be a cost. Productivity in other areas of the economy cannot be guaranteed if rubbish is not collected as well as Public Health affecting other workers. The council says it faces “significant financial challenges” and needs a “high-quality, value-for-money and reliable refuse service”. Yet this is what exists already and is due to be undermined.
Due to government funding cuts, the authority says spending on waste management has reduced from £71m in 2011 to £65m in 2017, and it says if it does nothing the overspend will be £5.2m in future years and it wants to balance its books.
It also says that compared to other councils, Birmingham is not meeting national productivity levels and it needs to improve. Failing to “improve productivity” and efficiency is “not an option”, the authority says. Once again “efficiency” in Social Programmes is being used as an excuse to cut, wreck or privatise. Any“productivity” drive to increase the company’s rate of return by getting more out of the workers for less leads to a dispute. It is effectively lengthening the working day for remaining workers to cover losses in labour-time of the previous larger workforce. The Council aims to intensify production by making less workers do more. An overall cut in wages, due to a reduced workforce, means that the added value created, favours the Authority and its claim, as against the workers, who are having to bear the burden of the artificial financial crisis caused by Government funding cuts.
The council says the 113 posts being “deleted” are “leading hand roles”, or supervisory roles for those workers out with bin crews. But the workers are not interested in these divisive tactics devised to play one section off against another. After all is said and done, an injury to one is an injury to all and the fight is for the rights of all.
The authority is also proposing changes to the current working pattern for waste collection crews – changing from a four-day week to a five-day week. They want to increase the working week for remaining workers.
Workers with an appropriate skills match will be told to do other council jobs so redundancy payment is avoided. In effect they will de-populate one area of labour to over-populate another. Only to say in future that cuts will have to take place in this area too.
Unite have accused the authority and say that it is, “more interested in ‘conflict’ than finding a negotiated settlement to an ongoing dispute”. Council bosses have withdrawn from planned talks and started issuing redundancy notices to workers.
The union says it is left with “little option” but to step up its industrial action, which has led to a series of further action during the summer. Unite said it had “little option” but to organise more strikes.
The council is telling people who have missed collections to leave their bins at the edge of their properties and must reduce the amount of waste they put in their bins.