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Call for resignation over handling of Birmingham bin workers’ dispute

The Unite general secretary has called on Birmingham City Council’s interim chief executive to resign.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has called on Birmingham City Council’s interim chief executive to clear her desk over the authority’s handling of its dispute with bin workers.

In a speech to hundreds of refuse staff and their supporters, Mr McCluskey urged the local authority to honour an Acas-backed agreement reached last month, which appeared to have ended seven weeks of strikers.

Addressing Unite members a day before a High Court attempt to force the Labour-run council to withdraw redundancy notices served on 106 workers, Mr McCluskey warned the authority’s interim chief executive, Stella Manzie, that the dispute could prove to be her “Waterloo Birmingham”.

Speaking at a rally outside the city’s Council House, the union leader said: “There are lots of decent Labour councillors here in Birmingham and I want to appeal to the decent members of this council to stand up and be counted.

“Stella Manzie, ‘Chopper’ Manzie as she’s called, has got a reputation of going round cutting wages, cutting jobs, cutting services and she has met her match here in ‘Waterloo’ Birmingham.

“Let me say to her, the best thing she can do is start clearing her desk now and sling her hook.

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey (Ben Stevens/PA)

“We call upon our Labour councillors, who are elected by the people, she’s not, to stand firm to the values that we hold so dear.

“She talks about cutting £5,000 (from the wages) of my members… it’s an absolute disgrace.”

Saying Unite would support refuse workers with a “massive” strike fund during their fight against plans to cut safety-critical posts, Mr McCluskey added: “I should say a thank you to the Labour MPs here in Birmingham, who have all called upon the council to honour an agreement.”

Urging Unite members to believe in principles of decency, justice and fairness, the union chief asked the crowd: “Can you just imagine what it would be like if an agreement was cut and the workers then said ‘nah, forget it, we’re not having it, we’re going back on the deal’.

“You’d be slaughtered. The media would cut you to pieces for being unprincipled.”

The city council’s leader, John Clancy, resigned with immediate effect last Monday, claiming “ill-informed” media speculation about the ongoing industrial action was harming the local Labour Party.

Unite’s assistant general secretary branded the council a shambles at the start of September, claiming it had reneged on a deal done in mid-August.

In a statement on his blog, Mr Clancy said: “The actions I took along with my cabinet to negotiate an end to an extremely complex and difficult industrial dispute were done with the best of intentions.

“None of us are perfect, and I made some mistakes, for which I am sorry and take full responsibility.”

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