‘You gave us a voice’ – human cost is key to #BirminghamBinStrike

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The SKWAWKBOX has run a number of articles over the past few weeks about the Birmingham bin strike, Birmingham City Council’s (BCC) atrocious treatment of its employees and its bad faith in attempting to renege on a firm, authorised and Cabinet-approved deal with union Unite.

This blog’s revelations resulted in the resignation of the council leader – and Unite won a vital victory on Wednesday, gaining an injunction preventing the council from proceeding with the redundancy notices it issued to staff with whom it had agreed a fair deal.

On the evening of the same day, the SKWAWKBOX received the following message from a Unite official:


There is no hyperbole in admitting that this simple message was deeply moving – in the idea that this blog had been of help to people being appallingly treated by their employer, but even more so in the thought that they had felt they had no voice.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of the billionaire-owned media and of the Tory-suborned BBC. Their representation of these hard-working and ill-treated people has primarily been as unreasonable agitators inflicting disruption on Birmingham residents, when the fact is that low-paid workers earning around £19,000 a year are being told they have to lose £3,500-5,000 by an interim BCC chief executive who earns £180,000 a year plus likely tens of thousands in expenses.

No wonder Unite’s Howard Beckett spoke so movingly about his members and so damningly of BCC’s chief executive last week to the TUC conference:

The human cost to Unite and other refuse workers involved in the fight to save their jobs and livelihoods is essential to a proper appreciation of this ‘dispute’, which is really just self-defence against an unscrupulous attack. So here are just three of some 113 voices of those affected by their employers’ attempted assault on their income:

I haven’t got the skills to take another Grade 3 role. They are beyond my reach. Other jobs are fixed term. If I take another job in Street Cleansing I fear I will be downgraded later.

“I’ve just secured my first mortgage I have 3 young kids if it take a grade 2 loader role I will lose £3.500-£5000 a year. I’m afraid I will lose my home.

I’m a third generation binman. I’m proud of this but I feel my long service is not being recognised nor appreciated. Our Grade 3 role ensures the safety of all.

Can you imagine yourself in their situation? Low-paid and told you should be lower-paid, without regard to human need let alone justice? Told there was a deal that would save you – only to have it snatched away and replaced with a redundancy notice?

Even such a brief glimpse of the humanity of those affected and the stress and fear this situation is inflicting on them – for a tiny saving – makes it clear there’s only one ‘right’ side to take.

And it’s not with a highly-paid chief executive, nor with a cadre of BCC councillors who appear more than ready to do the Tories’ dirty, callous work for them.

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  1. In recent years, a small socialist party running in a council election offered to cut managers’ pay so as to give all basic waged council staff a living wage. The Birmingham bin dispute could easily be resolved by the top managers getting a pay cut so that the binmen (far more important than any manager to council taxpayers) could keep their wage levels.

    You do not have to retire to claim your state pension. My campaign is solely addressed to a revised Labour Manifesto. Pension age 60 and £175 per week state pension. Please sign and share widely, especially with your local trade union to share in their union newsletter. Thanks. https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/pension-60-now-ps175-per-week

  2. Brilliant Work!
    You are becoming a legend at reporting what really matters..
    Thank you and please keep it up…
    You do us all Proud!!

  3. Very disappointed with private eye’s take… Not as if they haven’t had time to check the facts before releasing the publication, neither.

  4. What kind of rotten country are we allowing the UK to become when acts like this happen and no one, except a few of us including Skwawkbox, are shouting from the roof tops for a change in the dog eat dog policies of the Tories and their ilk?.

  5. The BCC have made an unholy mess of the situation. The guys who collect the bins have done a good job in Brum, adopted new working practises and negotiated agreements with the management that were done in good faith. Knee jerk, panicky actions to implement the Tories cost cutting by the Council have led to this impasse. The rest is a smokescreen to protect the Councillors. Stand firm and support the Binmen!

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