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Bin workers in court bid to block redundancy moves

Unite lawyers said council bosses wanted to remove a “leading hand” role – and change a four-day, nine hour shift pattern to a five-day, seven-hour arrangement.

Refuse collectors fighting for jobs in the wake of a dispute which has led to piles of rubbish left in Birmingham streets are waiting to see whether a High Court judge will come to their aid.

Union leaders want Mr Justice Fraser to block redundancy moves by Labour-controlled Birmingham City Council.

He is analysing rival arguments from lawyers representing Unite and the council at a High Court hearing in London. The hearing began on Monday and is due to end on Tuesday.

Mr Justice Fraser said he would make a decision this week.

He has heard that council bosses had outlined plans to make more than 100 redundancies earlier this year in a restructure of their waste and recycling service.

Unite lawyers said the council wanted to remove a “leading hand” role – and change a four-day, nine-hour shift pattern to a five-day, seven-hour arrangement.

Union leaders had raised health and safety concerns, saying “leading hands” had responsibilities which council bosses planned to re-allocate to lorry drivers. The judge heard that in July bin workers had begun industrial action.

He was told that the dispute was continuing and that the council had said it was costing taxpayers £300,000 a week.

Unite had also taken legal action, arguing that council bosses’ redundancy plans were unfair and in a breach of employment contracts, Mr Justice Fraser heard.

Council bosses were contesting those claims.

Union lawyers said they wanted the judge to grant an injunction which would block redundancy plans pending a ruling on that underlying legal dispute.

Council chiefs have apologised for disruption caused by industrial action.

They have outlined plans for collection, and offered advice, in a statement posted on the council website.

The statement says “frequently asked questions” include whether “piles of rubbish” were causing a risk to public health and “I have seen a rat, what do I do?”

Earlier this month council leader John Clancy resigned after saying “frenzied media speculation” about the dispute was “beginning to harm” Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Labour Party.

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