Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham bin strike: Council legal action against union

Bin workers on strike (Feb)
Image caption Unite members claim they have been "blacklisted" for striking in 2017

Striking bin workers in Birmingham are to face legal action by the local authority despite protests from councillors.

Birmingham City Council held an emergency cabinet meeting following Tuesday's first strike day.

A letter signed by 23 Labour councillors asked the Labour-run council to drop legal action against the union Unite.

The dispute is over claims workers were "blacklisted" for striking in 2017.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clearing the rubbish is costing Birmingham City Council £350,000 each week

At the cabinet meeting, the council said it would continue to meet with Unite representatives using the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), while still pursuing an injunction to end the strike.

The local authority said it believes the industrial action to be illegal and will take its case to the High Court to stop the strike, which is costing up to £350,000 each week.

Writing to council leader Ian Ward ahead of the cabinet meeting, the 23 Labour signatories called on him to drop the legal action which it called "misconceived and counter-productive".

"Senior officers are being allowed to drive a particular approach to industrial relations which gives rise to confrontation and disharmony," it read.

Image caption Rubbish is already starting to pile up in Birmingham

After the plea was ignored, the group's chief whip, councillor Kerry Jenkins, resigned saying she "cannot, in good conscience, whip for policies and decisions that are anti-trade union policies and I will not support them".

Councillor Brett O'Reilly, cabinet member for clean streets, waste and recycling, said he was "delighted" Unite's assistant general secretary Howard Beckett had indicated he wanted to resume talks.

Talks would resume "as soon as possible", he said, adding that his hope is to "find a resolution without legal action" but an injunction was the only way forward if talks failed.

More than 300 refuse workers picketed at four depot sites on Tuesday in what Mr Beckett described as "a last resort" after six weeks of talks collapsed.

They are set to strike again on Friday, protesting against payments to members of the GMB union who did not take part in the 2017 strike.

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