Clive Walder, Birmingham Central Socialist Party
Birmingham Labour council is playing dirty in the ongoing bin dispute to defend 113 threatened jobs now that the action is beginning to bite.
They are recruiting expensive agency staff and private ‘partners’ to scuttle round the city clearing up rubbish left by the strike. They have written to individual workers about a confidential hotline to encourage those scared by the threat of job losses to jump ship and weaken the entire workforce.
These tactics from management – more akin to Thatcher against the miners than to Jeremy Corbyn – while they were supposed to be talking to the union!
They could, of course, stop imposing their lousy plan, let bin workers go back to work and save money as a result. By being prepared to spend more on breaking the strike than by settling it, they indicate that this may be about breaking the union, possibly in preparation for privatisation. At the end of 2015-16 Birmingham council had £895.7 million of usable reserves!
In response, daily two-hour stoppages will become three-hour stoppages. Wagons will return to the depot at lunchtime from 28 July, increasing the backlog which the council is finding difficult to contain.
Bin workers are pleased that Unison, which represents street sweepers, is now also balloting for action.
Bin workers explain that they have had far more public support than ever before. So management is trying, with the help of local media, to turn the public against them by posting bin workers’ salaries online. But they only post maximum salaries which only a small proportion of the workers earn.
They claim that no existing worker will lose their job but fail to mention that many workers will have to reapply for their existing job at a lower grade which will see some workers lose £6,000 a year.
They also claim that they are creating permanent jobs and reducing the number of agency workers, yet they have been happy to employ agency workers for years.
Bin workers shouldn’t be forced into this position by the council. Workers have already had two pay cuts since 2008 and there is anger that a Labour council should be using such methods to slash back workers’ terms and conditions.
One striker said: “They talk about rats on the streets. What about rats in the council?”
At Perry Barr depot they suggested that: “Corbyn and the ‘crew in Birmingham council’ are totally different”.
Another said: “If Tory cabinet members now claim they reject austerity, why won’t Labour councillors?”
Jeremy Corbyn should demand that Birmingham councillors stop all attacks on the bin workers – and other council workers – or stop them standing as Labour candidates in future elections.
Birmingham Socialist Party members are regular visitors to picket lines and have produced a weekly bulletin for bin workers and a flyer for public distribution putting the workers’ case.
Send messages of support via
Howard.Beckett@unitetheunion.org and donations to Unite the Union, 9-17 Victoria St, West Bromwich B70 8HX