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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