Mark Conrad 14 August 2017

Birmingham bin strike could last until Christmas, union warns

Birmingham City Council has publicly apologised to residents affected by an ongoing bin strike which could last until December.

The trade union at the centre of the long-running dispute over proposed new working practises, Unite, is poised to seek fresh approval for further strikes by its members, which could mean a continuation of industrial action until Christmas.

Birmingham has offered to take the dispute to the arbitration service, ACAS, in a bid to resolve the issue.

The city has been disrupted by Unite’s strike action for weeks and in some areas rubbish has been piling up on the streets, although the council has implemented an emergency three-week collection plan to tackle mounting problems.

In an open letter to Birmingham’s residents, Cllr Lisa Trickett, Birmingham’s cabinet member for clean streets, recycling and environment, said: ‘We apologise to the people of Birmingham for this situation and we will continue to talk with our trade union colleagues in a bid to try to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.’

‘Despite the huge challenge posed by the industrial action, we have made great progress in tackling the backlog of missed collections.

‘Lessons have been learnt through this contingency process that will be put into place if the dispute continues.

‘It hasn’t been easy and I know your patience has been tested.

‘We are fully aware this is one of the few genuinely universal services we provide so one missed collection is one missed collection too many.’

But Unite’s assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett, warned the dispute could continue for months unless the two sides reach an agreement.

‘We continue to hold talks with the council, but progress has been slow and we would call on the council to now step up and conclude this urgently,’ he said.

‘In the absence of a settlement, we will be balloting our members from August 17 on whether they wish to take strike action and/or industrial action short of a strike after the current industrial action comes to an end in September.

‘The current round of industrial action is due to end on September 21 and a renewed industrial action mandate could see this dispute continuing up to Christmas.’

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