Socialist Worker

Birmingham bin workers rally ahead of strike ballot

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2572

Workers are fighting redundancies from a Labour-run council

Hundreds rallied in support of the strike (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Bin workers furious with their Labour-run council rallied in Birmingham city centre today, Sunday.

The 300-strong protest was called by the Unite union and comes as a ballot for further industrial action is ending. The bin workers are currently striking until 21 September.

The Labour council is intent on pushing through attacks on their jobs, pay and terms and conditions—but the bin workers are determined to resist.

Richard, the Unite convenor, told Socialist Worker, "All of the members are working class, they're Labour through and through —and feel betrayed.

"But we have got the full backing of the union, we're 100 percent resolved to fight this.

"We're expecting the ballot turnout to be high and that people will put the tick in the right box."

Paul, another Unite member, told Socialist Worker, "We could have strikes that will go on until Christmas."

After a summer of strikes the council and union struck a deal at government conciliation service Acas. But bosses quickly reneged on the deal—and issued redundancy notices to 113 "grade three" workers.

Attacks

Workers see the redundancy on their grade three colleagues, who work as look outs on the back of the lorries, as a prelude to more attacks. Tamar, a Unite member, told Socialist Worker, "I'm a driver on 'grade four' so I'm not affected.

"But they'll try to bring us down to a lower grade too, that's why we're sticking together."

Bob, another bin worker, added, "They say there's not the money, but the council officers are on hundreds of thousands.

"Why don't they cut from the top? Those officers could afford to lose forty to fifty thousand—and they would still be on £100,000 a year.

"They keep taking from the working class, but it's the working class that makes this country."

Chanting "Manzie, Manzie, Manzie—out, out, out", workers demanded that council chief executive Stella Manzie immediately resigns.

Council leader John Clancy resigned last week over his handling of the dispute.

At the rally Unite union general secretary Len McCluskey pledged his full support. "Stella Manzie has met her match," he said. "Unite has got no intention of losing this dispute.

“You're not going to be starved back to work."

McCluskey slammed austerity and praised Jeremy Corbyn for "turning Labour around".

Just like the Durham Teaching Assistants the strikes against Labour councils are a big test for left leaders.

Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have supported other groups of striking workers and joined their picket lines.

But many of the bin workers are frustrated that they have not received the same support from the Labour leadership. Paul said, "I spoke to John McDonnell at the TUC conference, but I'm a bit pissed off.

"McDonnell said that he saw it as a strike against austerity, not Labour, but it's a Labour council doing the austerity."

The Birmingham bin workers deserve the same support as any other group of strikers. Richard said, "It would be good if they came and met with Labour members to remind them that they're there to represent the working class."

Workers have shown how to resist austerity. After the ballot finishes, Unite must call further action and every trade unionist needs to build solidarity for their dispute.


Send messages of support to lynne.shakespeare@unitetheunion.org Send cheques payable to “Unite the union” to Unite the union, Transport House, 9-17 Victoria Street, West Bromwich B70 8H


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