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Birmingham bin worker strike resumes as union warns of rubbish-filled streets

Picket lines were established on Friday after Birmingham City Council began issuing redundancy notices to some waste collection staff.

The streets of Birmingham will be “piled high” with rubbish until New Year a union chief has warned, after bin workers resumed strikes.

Waste collection staff rejoined pickets on Friday after Birmingham City Council began issuing redundancy notices to some waste staff.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett branded the council a “shambles”, claiming it had “reneged” overnight on a deal done at Acas on August 16, which had put an end to seven weeks of strikes.

The city is again in the grip of walk-outs over the plans, first tabled in June, to make Grade 3 bin lorry workers redundant by October.

Council leader John Clancy said the proposals would “provide a better, more efficient service” for Birmingham’s residents, which can run “within budget”.

However, the “u-turn” has left union members enraged according to Mr Beckett, who met workers on the picket line at a city waste depot on Friday.

Rubbish bags piled high in Tarry Road, Birmingham (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “John Clancy has said there was no deal in place which is just outrageous and completely contrary to the Acas statement that says there’s agreement in principle for the Grade 3 to remain, and consequently no redundancy steps are in place. The council is in a shambles.

“Workers are angry. I am angry, and I’m angry for people of Birmingham because what their council has done, with no valid explanation whatsoever, is committed industrial sabotage the like of which I have not seen before. They’ve returned the city to chaos.

“There will be rubbish piled high now for the rest of 2017 – and it is the council which is responsible.”

Mr Beckett also signalled there could be wider strike action, warning “we will be balloting across the council”.

Bin man Del Broth, a Grade 3 worker on about £19,000 a year, has spent 28 years working on the dust carts. As he himself is just two years shy of retirement, he said he was fighting for the younger members of the workforce.

The 63-year-old, from Castle Vale in Birmingham, added: “They want me to go down to Grade 2, so I’d be down about £4,000 per year.”

Rubbish piles up on the Beeches estate in north Birmingham (David Jones/PA)

He claimed the council had “never negotiated in good faith” and was in his view moving towards privatisation of the service.

Mr Broth added: “I think they’re trying to slim-line the service and then they’ll put it out to tender.”

The draft of an agreement struck at Acas was due to be discussed at a crunch meeting by leading councillors on Friday.

However, the meeting was cancelled at the eleventh hour, and unions informed in a letter from the council chief executive Stella Manzie that notices would be served on staff.

A council spokesman said the local authority wanted to “continue its ongoing discussion with the trade union through Acas in parallel with seeking alternative jobs”.

However, Mr Beckett branded the alternatives “nonsense”, claiming bin workers would not have the right “skill-set”, and adding the replacement roles were fixed-term, rather than permanent contracts.

Councillor Lisa Trickett, who is in charge of council waste services, added: “We hope that, in view of the ongoing discussions with Acas, Unite will not take their workforce back out on strike but continue in discussions with us and the other unions.”

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