Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham bin strike called off

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Media captionBirmingham's refuse workers vow to clear rubbish backlog

A long-running bin strike in Birmingham has been called off.

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

The city council agreed certain posts would not be made redundant and Acas said bin collections could now resume.

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

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Why did the workers go on strike?

Image caption Refuse workers have been striking since 30 June, leading to a backlog of bin collections

A statement said the council and Unite had made sufficient progress in their talks to allow the industrial action to be paused.

The statement said both parties would continue to discuss how the bin collection service could be improved and what savings could be made.

It also said Unite had also agreed in principle to recommend its members accept work pattern changes, including considering a five-day working week instead of the current four days.

Image copyright @outinbrum
Image caption Residents in Northfield Road, Harborne, celebrated their rubbish bags' "50th birthday" earlier this week to mark 50 days since their rubbish was last collected

Unite said it had achieved victory in the bin dispute.

It said the council had accepted the refuse workers' case and restored the jobs of grade three workers, who are responsible for safety at the back of refuse vehicles.

Analysis by Kathryn Stanczyszyn, political reporter

The city sighs with relief as the dispute ends, but there have been casualties.

The biggest is on Birmingham City Council's side. It appears to have given up a central part of the plan to modernise its waste service - the scrapping of grade three refuse workers on bin wagons.

They were being offered jobs elsewhere but unions said it amounted to potential pay cuts of up to £5,000. The council said that was untrue and had seemed firm on the idea that to achieve the efficiencies needed, grade threes had to go.

Unite has hailed it a victory, saying the council has accepted its point of view. It has however made a smaller concession on its own part that it will "consider" a five day working week rather than the current four.

Council leader John Clancy appears to have been pivotal in this relatively swift development following seven weeks of stalemate, with the union saying he has "worked very hard and travelled the extra mile to achieve this solution, despite the reservations of some top council officials".

Assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: "We are very pleased that we have reached the stage where we can suspend the industrial action while we hold further talks about the future of the refuse service.

Image caption Waste spilling from bin bags in Avon Street, Sparkhill

"I know this news will be greatly welcomed by the people of Birmingham as they look forward to their bins being collected again on a regular and seamless basis. I would like to thank them for their understanding over recent weeks."

The strike action, which consisted of two or three-hour stoppages during a daily shift, had been set to last until 21 September - with talk of it possibly lasting until Christmas.

The amount of rubbish left in some streets led to residents taking action to clear up the waste themselves.

A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman said there was still a backlog of uncollected waste because of the strike and it was therefore still in a contingency phase.

She said the council would resume regular collections as soon as it was able to.

In a statement, the council said the Acas statement did not represent the council's official position as the matter still had to be considered by cabinet members at a special meeting on 24 August.

Image caption Volunteers the Bearded Broz faced criticism for cleaning up the streets themselves

Volunteers the Bearded Broz cleaned up 45 tonnes of waste in the Yardley area, leading them to be called scabs by the Morning Star newspaper.

Spokesman Naveed Sadiq said it was good news the strike had ended, but it was not the end of their campaign to keep streets clean.

Plans were in place for a community project to keep the area tidy he said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Rubbish piles up on Tarry Road in Birmingham

"We hadn't been able to clean the streets lately as the council told us the tip (Tyseley) was too busy.

"The streets around here don't look too bad at the moment but around Alum Rock there are some that need clearing," he said.

"Was it all worth it?" commented Birmingham resident Gary Jordan. "The only winners in this were the rats and the flies."

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