Socialist Worker

No bin collections in eight weeks for some as Birmingham strike escalates

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2567

West Midlands firefighters show solidarity on the picket line on Monday of this week

West Midlands firefighters show solidarity on the picket line on Monday of this week (Pic: Sharon Campion)


Refuse workers in Birmingham are stepping up their action today, Friday, with a new strike timetable that even bosses say will bring bin collections to a halt.

The Unite union members will continue to strike for three hours a day, but this will now be split into three one-hour walkouts.

Since they also have two breaks, this means five trips to and from their depots each day. A “management source” conceded to a local paper that, “We fear they will spend most of the time just driving and nothing will be collected.”

One striker told Socialist Worker, “We started small and we’ve progressed. Now I can’t see the council holding out much longer. We’ve created such a backlog of rubbish that even if we started work tomorrow it would take weeks of overtime to get on top of it.”

The Labour council is trying to remove a safety critical role, slash the pay of the workers who do it, and give all workers more work and less time off. But it has provoked resistance.

The striker said, “I’ve never seen solidarity like it is now, it’s absolutely amazing. The strength and the commitment to fight on is beyond belief. Suddenly everyone’s an activist, everyone’s taking part.

'Expertise'

“It took a big attack to get here, but now we’re taking the fight to them. The council’s chief executives—paid hundreds of thousands pounds for their ‘expertise’—are being outmanoeuvred by grade 2 bin men.”

Taking up the fight against the local authority cuts
Taking up the fight against the local authority cuts
  Read More

The strike could be a spur for other fights.

Recycling workers employed by Suez in Doncaster have called two five-day strikes against a rotten pay deal as bosses plot to axe over 100 jobs. It follows a vote to strike by refuse workers in Wigan.

In Birmingham the council has spent six years slashing jobs and services with more attacks ahead.

This is partly why its attempts to turn people against the strikers have had limited success.

“People in some areas haven’t had a collection in eight weeks,” the striker said. “They’re getting a bit more pissed off with us—but a lot more pissed off with the council.

“People know what the council has been doing. And council leaders forget, we meet every single person in this city. We speak to them and we get a lot of support. I lose count of how many horns have beeped, how many thumbs up we’ve had.”

This strike can win—and send a clear message that with workers’ solidarity it’s possible to beat austerity.

SOLIDARITY—Support the workers’ hardship fund. Send cheques payable to “Unite the union” to Unite the union, Transport House, 9-17 Victoria Street, West Bromwich B70 8HX

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