Socialist Worker

Birmingham council workers strike against cuts

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2233

A strike by workers across the Birmingham Connexions service, which assists young and vulnerable people to access work and training opportunities, was called off at the last minute today.

Unison officials suspended the strike because of a management concession.

However the concession was simply to push back the implementation of massive job cuts to the end of February.

It is a mistake for Unison to have called off the strike. If it had gone ahead it could have forced management back even further.

The Tory-run council has told Connexions workers that one in four jobs will go. To stop it will require hard hitting action by workers, not calling off strikes at the last minute

But Birmingham bin workers have announced a further two half-day strike, Thursday and Friday of next week, in response to management bullying and a second round of pay cuts of up to £4,000 a year.

And yesterday workers were delivered letters from council bosses saying that their pay will be cut by 20 percent because of the work to rule currently in place.


“This is a disgraceful attack,” Roger Jenkins, GMB organiser, told Socialist Worker.

“We have had two round of pay cuts which are crippling our members. Now we have been told that we face a further 20 percent reduction in pay because we supposedly haven’t collected enough rubbish.”

The council letter claims that workers have refused to pick up the rubbish left behind on previous strike days—20 and 21 December—and rubbish left uncollected because of the snow. As a result, they are docking 20 percent of pay, and are going to weigh collections and cut future pay should workers not collect what they deem a suitable “level”.

The council claims to have no choice but to make cuts, yet has employed around 200 people to break the strike, having to provide around £20,000 for clothing before wages and other equipment.

And despite the council claiming to have met with unions repeatedly, unions have confirmed that all reps working in refuse have had their facility time removed and have not been given time off to attend negotiations.

But bin workers have shown that they are determined to fight the cuts and management bullying. A Birmingham wide walkout by bin workers was sparked on 21 December when management suspended two workers. The walkout forced management to back down and reinstat the workers without sanction.

“We have no choice but to fight back, said Roger Jenkins. “We are now considering balloting all GMB members working for Birmingham city council, and we will be meeting with our colleagues in other unions to discuss whether they can do the same.”

It is vital that trade unionists and anti-cuts activists join the picket lines and bring messages of solidarity. Wider strikes will be needed to stop the council’s cuts plans.

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