The fight of striking Birmingham bin workers was heard by TUC Congress in a debate of an emergency motion in Brighton today (12).
On 31 August, Birmingham City Council reneged on an agreement struck with Unite at Acas on 15 August over the Birmingham refuse collectors’ dispute. Howard Beckett, from Unite, told the delegates in moving the motion how the bin workers were being asked to put health and safety at risk by employers and accept a £5,000 pay cut as workers were downgraded from grade three workers to grade two workers.
Unite is bringing legal action against the council to ask the courts to enforce the Acas deal.
In seconding the motion, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This strike tells us real story of austerity. Those workers have had the pay cap going back to 2010.
“Pay cuts in the guise of equal pay stink.”
“A further 120 jobs are at risk,” Mark said, adding that many workers face pay cuts - some of whom who have worked in their roles for decades.
“Bin workers should not be taken for granted,” he said. “The council should do the right thing. Victory to the bin workers.”
Thin edge of the wedge
Stella Manzie, chief executive of Birmingham City Council, is “driving austerity”, Howard Beckett said, citing her £180,000 salary and the £160,000 worth of expenses she claimed for in a single year.
Furthermore, he said, the bin workers dispute is just the “thin edge of the wedge” as more pay cuts are expected.
Solidarity to the movement was also given by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who in his speech to the TUC said that: “We collectively as the Labour and trade union movement have a duty to find a resolution to end this dispute as soon as possible - let’s please do that.”
Not a labour council
Howard Beckett complained that Birmingham Council - a Labour council - was acting like the Tories.
“A Labour council which does not stand up for our members has no place in our movement. If they sound Tory, if they act Tory then let us call them Tories,” he stormed.
The passing of the motion means that TUC is required to campaign and take the necessary action to ensure that agreements struck at Acas are honoured.