Socialist Worker

Birmingham rubbish bosses are in the dumps

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2233

On the picket line in Birmingham (Pic: Alan Kenny)

On the picket line in Birmingham (Pic: Alan Kenny)

Industrial action by refuse workers in Birmingham, combined with recent bad weather, is hitting hard.

And workers decided this week to escalate their action in the face of management bullying, calling two half days of strikes. The days were still being decided as Socialist Worker went to press.

Many households have not had their bins collected for a month and rubbish is piling up in the streets.

Over 400 refuse workers—including drivers, collectors and street sweepers—began a work to rule on 16 December over imposed pay cuts of up to £4,000 a year.

The workers, who are members of the GMB, Unite, Unison and Ucatt unions, escalated their action by striking on 20 December.

Trade unionists from other workplaces joined their picket lines in solidarity.

Refuse workers walked out again the following day after bosses suspended two strikers.

The dispute began in September after Veolia, the company contracted by Birmingham and around 100 other councils to carry out bin collections, issued HR1 redundancy notices to some 1,200 workers. This was part of a plan to force through worse contracts.

The GMB union threatened a national strike ballot in response, forcing the company to withdraw its redundancy threats.

But Veolia is still trying to slash wages and conditions, and has taken on 200 extra people—resulting in further chaos.

Most of the new workers are unable to drive and therefore cannot do the job.

And, despite several highly paid senior managers spotted driving refuse collection lorries, the council could muster only 19 scab crews instead of the 80 they needed.

The new strike dates need to be announced as a matter of urgency. The best response to management strikebreaking is to escalate the action—and for the rest of the council’s workforce to quickly begin their own battles over cuts.

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