The SKWAWKBOX has covered the strike by Birmingham City Council (BCC) refuse workers at some length, as staff fought against an unprincipled attack on their salaries and conditions – and then BCC u-turn as the council reneged on an Acas-mediated agreement after it was approved by the BCC Cabinet.
BCC tried to force over a hundred ‘leading hand’ refuse workers to drop a grade – and lose £3,500-5,000 from salaries already only around £20,000. And when it reneged on the deal, it tried to browbeat its staff into accepting the deal by issuing them all with redundancy notices – only to suffer a humiliating court loss when a judge awarded the union Unite an injunction banning the implementation of the redundancies.
The SKWAWKBOX’s coverage of the council’s unprincipled behaviour led to the resignation of the council leader – of a notionally Labour council – and was hailed by embattled refuse workers for ‘giving us a voice’ – while Unite’s assistant General Secretary, Howard Beckett, condemned the council’s lack of integrity and Labour values in a series of impassioned speeches.
Now the SKWAWKBOX can exclusively reveal that a new deal – or, more precisely, a new version of the original agreement – has been reached in new Acas-managed negotiations in what union insiders have called a ‘total climbdown’ by BCC.
The ‘new’ deal, which has been agreed today by a special meeting of the BCC cabinet and will be put to workers tomorrow for final approval, means that:
- all 109 leading hands will retain their grade 3 status and salary
- the ‘leading hand’ title will be abolished and replaced by a new ‘Waste Reduction and Collection’ role (WRCO), retaining safety responsibilities as well as communications with residents
- each refuse wagon will have a team of driver, at least one loader and a WRCO – vital for safe operation for crew and public
- guaranteed protection against redundancies and any role changes for at least 12 months from the start of implementation
- any future changes to waste collection services will be agreed by a joint ‘Service Improvement Board established jointly between BCC and the unions
- all disputes and industrial actions will be withdrawn as soon as the agreement has been signed by both parties
- the ongoing High Court proceedings will be terminated as soon as the agreement is finalised and binding
This is a fantastic result for BCC’s refuse workers and their unions, particularly Unite, which has taken the main role in the negotiations.
The council, by contrast, has prolonged the dispute causing unnecessary distress and hardship to workers and Birmingham residents – only to then cave in and agree a deal almost identical to the one it dishonourably reneged on.
The equal pay concerns originally claimed by the council as the reason for its behaviour did not feature in the court cases and are not mentioned in the new agreement.
The SKWAWKBOX congratulates the Birmingham refuse workers and their unions, particularly Unite, for achieving a great result both for staff and for Birmingham residents against great odds and in spite of the behaviour of BCC. We’re proud to have played a tiny role in this victory for justice and solidarity.
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