The Birmingham bins strike could continue until Christmas according to the Unite union – who have been accused by council bosses of “holding the city to ransom.”
The union is now balloting binmen to renew its industrial action mandate which could result in more strikes after the present dispute ends on September 21.
The current pattern of industrial action is three one hour stoppages at 7am, 10.30am and 1.30pm, which started today.
Council bosses believe this effectively means that very few bins will be emptied because the industrial action is accompanied by a work-to-rule, with bin crews returning to their depot for tea and lunch breaks, which fall between the strike times at around 9am and 12.30pm.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “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.
“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 ballot closes on 31 August.
“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.”
He added: “This is the last thing that the Birmingham public and our members want, so we again today call on the city council to move up a gear and negotiate constructively.
“This dispute began with Birmingham council having a list of demands. During the dispute one of our shop stewards has been suspended and disciplinary action has been accelerated against him.
“In contrast the union has said protect the salaries of our members in the grade 3 role and drop the disciplinary against our shop steward and we can work to a settlement regarding all of the council’s further demands. The council must now step up and conclude a settlement.”
Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Clean Streets, Recycling and Environment, said: “We are very disappointed by this latest development. Unite are effectively holding the city to ransom with this announcement.
“They have talked about red lines they wish to negotiate with us, but this threat of extended industrial action will not help the process of achieving a swift resolution so we can get on with delivering a modern, effective and efficient refuse collection service for the people of Birmingham.”
“We have put the offer of ACAS to Unite as an open, fair and transparent way of ending the dispute.”
Unite has said that the local authority regarded the dispute as about working patterns, while the union said that it was about safety on the refuse vehicles and threats to the jobs and incomes of already lowly paid workers who could lose up to £5,000-a-year.
Howard Beckett added: “I would also ask the Birmingham public to understand that strike action is a last resort for our members and places them in considerable financial hardship.
“We are keen to discuss our plans to maximise recycling revenue, but we will not discuss low paid members with families losing up to 20 per cent of their wages because of historical mismanagement and Tory-driven austerity.”
He added: “To the members of the public suffering we offer our sincere sympathies, we ask them to place themselves in the shoes of our members and ask them to call upon the council to resolve this dispute.”
Unite members voted by 90 per cent for strike action and the workers also voted by 93 per cent for industrial action short of a strike.