Birmingham & Black Country

Job threat for Birmingham binmen offered lower wage

Image caption The city council says it will appeal against the equal pay ruling

Up to 400 binmen in Birmingham could lose their jobs if they do not agree to a new pay deal seeing them earn £4,000 a year less, union officials say.

The city council said it is considering terminating exisiting contracts and "immediately re-engaging" staff on new terms and conditions.

About 5,000 female workers won an equal pay case in April over bonuses paid to male workers on the same pay grade.

The council said the new deal was "a necessary course of action".

Roger Jenkins, GMB union regional organiser in the city, said that if the council issued dismissal notices to staff, the union will offer members a ballot for strike action.

"The council's cabinet announced two days ago that they will be cutting the pay of the binmen by £4,000," he said.

"We are expecting very shortly for those individuals that do not accept a new deal, that they will be issued with dismissal notices.

"The binmen will have three months' notice, by law."

Many workers were angry as they found out about the deal in the media, he added.

"If they issue dismissal notices then we will ballot for strike action," Mr Jenkins said.

"We will have no choice, we can't sit back and let them cut £4,000 off someone's pay.

"The reaction has been well, it all went mad yesterday because the trade unions were not told, they [binmen] were not told, we first heard it in the media."

He said it is not clear when the notices will be issued.

'No sackings'

The pay deal would mean binmen would get about £80 less each week, the GMB said.

Earlier this month, the council said it was going to appeal against the landmark equal pay ruling.

Unions estimate the tribunal's decision could cost the council up to £80m in back pay to the women, who worked as cleaners, cooks, care assistants and caretakers.

The issues the tribunal looked at related to historical bonus schemes which were abolished in 2008, councillor Alan Rudge, the cabinet member for equalities, said at the time.

He said the authority had since introduced a revised pay and grading structure in line with the Equal Opportunity Commission' s guidelines.

In February, the council said up to 1,400 jobs were under threat due to "current financial pressures". Up to 800 job cuts were announced in October.

The council, the largest local authority in the UK employing 52,000 people, has said it had to make savings of up to £69m by April 2011.

In a statement, the council said it was talking to unions about terminating staff contracts.

"There are no plans to sack anyone as part of this process," a spokesman said.

"We are currently in discussions with unions to agree a basis on which to terminate existing contracts and immediately re-engage staff on new terms and conditions which comply fully with equality laws."

Earlier this month the GMB said relations between its representatives and the council were the "worst in the country".

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