Birmingham & Black Country

Why did refuse workers strike in Birmingham?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Waste piled up high in many Birmingham streets during the strike, including here in Alum Rock

Refuse workers have called off their series of strikes in Birmingham, which took place due to a dispute with the city council over job losses.

Conciliation service Acas said action had been suspended amid negotiations between Unite and the city council to bring the seven-week dispute to an end.

But why exactly did workers strike - and what did the council have to say? The BBC looks at key questions around the row.

Why did the refuse workers strike?

Workers went on strike due to a dispute over job losses. The Unite union claimed restructuring plans threatened the jobs of more than 120 staff, while the council says plans will modernise the service and save £5m a year.

What did the strike action involve?

A range of different stoppages.

From 11 August, three-hour stoppages were spaced across the shift, taking place at 07.00, 10.30 and 13.30.

Previously, workers had taken a two-hour stoppage from 06:00-08:00 and a one-hour stoppage between 12:30-13:30.

There was also an overtime ban in place and workers returned to depots for all lunch and tea breaks.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Workers had threatened to strike until at least September unless an agreement was reached

Why does the council want to make changes?

Essentially, it's all about saving money. The council says it faces "significant financial challenges" and needs a "high-quality, value-for-money and reliable refuse service".

Due to government funding cuts, the authority says spending on waste management has reduced from £71m in 2011 to £65m in 2017, and it says if it does nothing the overspend will be £5.2m in future years.

It also says that compared to other councils, Birmingham is not meeting national productivity levels and it needs to improve. Failing to improve productivity and efficiency is "not an option", the authority says.

Image caption Industrial action began on 30 June

What jobs are going?

The council had said the 113 posts being "deleted" were "leading hand roles", or supervisory roles for those workers out with bin crews.

It said despite the posts going, all workers with an appropriate skills match would be offered new council jobs at the same pay grade.

The authority is also proposing changes to the current working pattern for waste collection crews - changing from a four-day week of just over nine hours a day, to a five-day week of just over seven hours a day.

Following the strike, the city council has now provisionally agreed certain posts will not be made redundant and conciliation service Acas said bin collections could now resume.

Union officials said in return they would recommend staff considered accepting rota changes.

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Image caption Rubbish has been mounting up on the city's streets since strike action started

Why did it take so long to resolve?

Because both sides previously struggled come to an agreement - and talks had broken down.

The council maintains there are no job losses as a result of the changes and claims no redundancy notices have been issued.

Before the Acas agreement was reached, Unite said the authority was "more interested in 'conflict' than finding a negotiated settlement to an ongoing dispute".

It said its attempts to negotiate a settlement had been thwarted by council bosses who had withdrawn from planned talks and started issuing redundancy notices to workers.

The union said it was left with "little option" but to step up its industrial action, which led to a series of further action.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Before the provisional agreement was reached, Unite said it had "little option" but to organise more strikes

What were residents supposed to do about it?

The council had told people who had missed collections to leave their bins at the edge of their properties and they will be collected "as soon as possible".

People were also asked reduce the amount of waste they put in their bins and told to use the council's recycling centres if they wanted to get rid of their rubbish sooner.

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