Housing: foreign investors head to Birmingham

seven capital birmingham

An abandoned old tesco at ground and derelict offices above are transformed into “Birmingham’s hottest property” by SevenCapital

A report in The Times on July 8 described the rush of foreign capital into Birmingham’s housing market. With cheap, cramped and ugly apartments flying up across the city, it is clear that there is money to be made.

Birmingham reportedly has the youngest population of any city in Europe, is now the most popular destination for those escaping from London and stands to benefit from even better rail links to the Capital once HS2 is completed (journey times of 1hr 15mins are already available on some services). Furthermore, with house prices a fraction of those in London it is easy to understand why workers from the south are looking to cash in and buy in Birmingham, and other poorer workers merely escape to cheaper rents in the West Midlands.

“While London and Manchester were previously the prime targets for foreign investors there has been a surge in interest in Birmingham, with overseas buyers snapping up as many as 100 flats each in new developments.

As well as the promise of huge yields renting to young people, investors are being lured by glossy brochures boasting that Birmingham is “one of the greenest [cities] in the UK” has “more miles of canals than Venice” and is home to the “iconic” Bullring. Another developer, whose conversion of a factory in the trendy Digbeth area is being marketed in Hong Kong, promises almost guaranteed rental income.

Seven Capital, which is behind numerous developments in the city, is telling investors that demand from tenants is so high that some properties are being let on the same day they are purchased.”[i]

The Times, which is not well known for being concerned with the prospects of ordinary working-class people reported that,

“Chloe Thorn, 26, has been saving for a deposit to buy a flat in Birmingham since she was 16. But when she began putting offers in she found that minimum deposits were either out of reach or flats were marked as investment-only. “It’s like being priced out of the city I’ve grown up in,” she added. “I remember when I first started looking in 2017 and seeing all these new buildings being built and thinking I may stand a chance of buying somewhere in the city once they are done. But once they went online to buy it was all investors-only on the majority.””

Capitalism only builds for profit

What Chloe failed to realise is that houses are not built so that working people can have a nice place to live, to bring up children and start a family. Under capitalism flats and houses are built so that they can be sold for a profit. Under capitalism, commodities (houses, cars, food, video games) are produced so that they can be sold on the market, they are not sold at their value, they will be sold for as much as the seller can persuade somebody to part with. Capitalism does not work for ordinary working people.

Housing under capitalism has become a vehicle for the wealthy to invest money in. The influx of foreign capital into housing in Birmingham is a consequence of the lack of better (more lucrative) schemes for the wealthy to invest in, and despite the claims of estate agents in Hong Kong and elsewhere, it is far from certain that investment like this can return the rents which these landlords hope for. Birmingham is a working-class city, more than 100,000 children live in poverty and one in five workers earn less than the Living Wage (£8.25p/h), recent accounts from the city council show that many workers cannot afford to pay their council tax with Birmingham owing £115m in outstanding arrears – not a cast-iron guarantee for great rental incomes.[ii]

Whilst estate agents will say anything to shift overpriced, poor quality housing, it is surprising that there are so many gullible enough to fall for it. Even in London the property bubble is due to pop, and there are already signs that in the highest end of the market the glory days are already over,

“Viewed from Bangalore, the purchase of a newly built three-bedroom apartment in London for more than £1.4m seemed like a safe investment bet. The top-floor three-bedroom home under construction in Keybridge House south of the Thames boasted views of the City of London and the Shard skyscraper. As Shonu Bhandari considered the purchase two years ago, agents told him he could expect the value to rise 15 per cent before the property had even been finished. The Indian entrepreneur, who runs a medical products company, happily signed up to buy. But his purchase soured quickly. When Bhandari approached a mortgage lender, it valued the property not at 15 per cent more than he had agreed to pay — but at 20 per cent less. With completion of the building looming, he signed over the property to a new buyer in March this year for £1.2m, losing more than £200,000 of his deposit.

…One new-build brochure from the estate agent Savills in 2016 said price growth in prime central London was expected to average 21.5 per cent by the end of 2020. Prices have so far fallen 10.4 per cent since that date, according to LonRes, a data provider.

“Global capital entering local real estate markets is not particularly new, but what was new was the intensity with which it entered places like Vancouver, New York, London, Melbourne and Sydney,” says Andy Yan, a planner and academic in Vancouver.”

“…In London, research by Savills shows construction continues to be out of step with demand. The London market over the next five years will need 42,500 new homes a year for sale or rent at cheaper than market rates, the property agency found — but only about 3,500 a year will be built.

Demand also far exceeds supply in the “lower” and “mid” markets, up to £700 per square foot. But above that, planned supply starts to exceed demand. In the £700 to £1,000 a sq ft category, annual demand for 7,000 homes a year will be catered for by almost 10,500.  Prices at the top end are falling, but the median London house price remains more than 12 times average earnings. “What we don’t need in London are more £1m-plus apartments with swimming pools, spas, cinema suites and service charges of £7 or £8 a sq ft [per year]. Those are not for normal Londoners,””[iii]

Socialism the only answer

Houses should be homes for people, shelter and a secure family life is a right for every worker. Houses should not, as they are under capitalism, be commodities, sold only to those who can afford to buy or rent them, rather than provided for those who need them. By its utter inability to solve the housing question and meet this basic need of working people, the capitalist system is providing yet more proof that it is well past its use-by date and due for demolition.

The Eighth Congress of the Communist Party (CPGB-ML), held in September 2018, passed a resolution on housing which put forward the basic demands of the Communist Party on the housing question. These demands form the basis of the party work on housing, and should be taken up by all advanced workers:

  1. Scrap the 2016-17 housing bill:the immediate scrapping of the 2016-17 housing bill, which threatens hundreds of thousands with poverty and homelessness.
  2. Build council houses not ‘affordable homes’:the provision of at least 300,000 new council houses per year to end the crisis.
  3. Guarantee secure social housing:guaranteed, secure and well-maintained social housing for all who want it, close to people’s work and families, and the abolition of divisive allocation criteria.
  4. Council ownership not ALMOs:the return of housing association and ‘non-profit’ properties to council ownership.
  5. Abolish housing charities:the abolition of housing charities and the reintroduction of the legal right to decent, secure housing for all; slums, overcrowding and homelessness are an indictment on capitalism and a crime against humanity.
  6. Set a rent cap: the introduction of a rent cap at 20 percent of minimum wage for all privately rented accommodation, and the scrapping of housing benefit (a subsidy to landlords that has helped to fuel rent rises).
  7. Protect existing council housing:the scrapping of all schemes that fuel prices, create shortages and offer subsidies to landlords and developers.
  8. Use existing surplus housing stock:the confiscation of all surplus homes and unfinished developments and their transformation into council housing.
  9. Provide decent homes for all:the establishment of residents’ management committees to oversee planning and maintenance and ensure that all workers have access to adequate space, necessary amenities and decent facilities, including having usable and pleasant outdoor spaces and community halls.

 

Some links

[i] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/birmingham-housing-foreign-buy-to-let-investors-pricing-out-locals-bkdfb2ws5

[ii] https://birminghamworker.org/2019/06/13/birmingham-council-cash-reserves-increase-by-736/ & https://birminghamworker.org/2019/07/03/thousands-of-birmingham-workers-too-poor-to-pay-their-council-tax/

[iii] https://www.ft.com/content/ea9c9abc-943d-11e9-aea1-2b1d33ac3271

Thousands of Birmingham workers too poor to pay their council tax

council tax rise 2019

a poster issued by Birmingham Worker in April this year when council tax for many households rose by £70+

In May Birmingham Worker reported on the crisis in council tax and its anti-working class character hitting many of the poorest in our cities. A publication by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain concluded that council tax was beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated Poll Tax.

The Birmingham Mail on 2 July carried the story that council tax arrears in Birmingham have soared to their highest levels on record with workers in Birmingham owing a total of £115.6million in outstanding council tax. Non-payments in 2018/19 totalled £21.4million – an overall collection rate of 94.4%.

This was a rise from £111million in 2017/18, and up by almost a fifth compared to £98.5million in 2012/13 (the figures are cumulative and include arrears that stretch back many years).

The UK is ranked by the OECD as having, after France, the greatest reliance on property taxation of all OECD country respondents as a proportion of GDP. For 2017, property taxes accounted for around 4.2 per cent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average.

Today’s system of council tax leaves those living in the lowest-value homes paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value, than those living in the highest value homes. This is particularly acute in London where property investment has taken house price prices to ludicrous levels. The poorest Londoners pay 8.1% of household income in council tax, whilst those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3% of their declared earnings.

Council tax

No tinkering with the present system of taxation will be enough to stop the steady slide of hundreds of thousands of workers and middle classes into absolute destitution and misery. The crisis of overproduction, its consequent lay-offs and redundancies destroy the purchasing power of the masses who are also crushed under the weight of rising prices and taxation which they can no longer afford. Millions of workers today are a pay cheque away from ruination. Raising taxation of empty homes in London does nothing to undermine the financial power of the landlord and capitalist class, it does nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of the people’s misery – capitalism. Only under socialism, where the private ownership of the land by a tiny few is replaced with a socialist system of land ownership and taxation, where the recurrent crisis of capitalism is done away with and replaced by planned production can the working man and woman finally find themselves liberated.

Join the communists

If you want to fight for a better life for yourself, your class and your children, get in touch with the communist party in Birmingham:

Council tax becoming the new Poll Tax claims IPPR

21st century socialism

The first premise of all human existence is … that man must be in a position to live in order to make history. But life involves before anything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things” (K Marx and F Engels, The German Ideology (1846), International Publishers, New York, 1947, p.16).

A short column in the FT on Saturday 18th May notes the publication of a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) into council tax inequality. The report, focused on London but taking into account some statistical evidence for the whole of Britain concludes that council tax is beginning to look a lot like the ill-fated Poll Tax which caused Margaret Thatcher so many problems thirty years ago.

The UK is ranked by the OECD as having, after France, the greatest reliance on property taxation of all OECD country respondents as a proportion of GDP. For 2017, property taxes accounted for around 4.2 per cent of GDP, more than twice the OECD average.

The IPPR report states that today’s system of council tax leaves those living in the lowest-value homes paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value, than those living in the highest value homes. This is particularly acute in London where property investment has taken house price prices to ludicrous levels. The study found that a household in a Band A property in London would on average pay nearly five times what a Band H household would pay as a proportion of property value. The poorest Londoners pay 8.1% of household income in council tax, whilst those in the top income decile contribute just 1.3% of their declared earnings.

“Those in the lowest-value homes in London are paying a higher proportion of council tax with regard to property value than those in higher-value homes… To the extent that the distribution of property values is a proxy for wealth, this is not fair… The regressive nature of the present council tax system is embedded in its design… The highest-value property in Band H will attract a maximum of three times the tax on the lowest-value homes, even though (based on the current banding system) the high-value home is worth at least eight times the low-value one in 1991 property prices. As a proportion of property value, lower-value properties pay a larger proportion than higher-value properties.”

Arrears

“Across England”, according to the report, “officially recognised annual total council tax arrears increased from £836 million in 2013/14 to £944 million in 2017/18. Moreover, the total arrears outstanding in 2017/18 were £3 billion, up from £2.5 billion in 2013/14. Research by the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K) has also found that a number of councils are using bailiffs, and claimants are being charged court costs on top of their arrears… At the most extreme, 305 people were given custodial prison sentences for non-payment of council tax between 2013/14 and 2017/18, with another 6,278 receiving suspended sentences…”

Council tax

No tinkering with the present system of taxation will be enough to stop the steady slide of hundreds of thousands of workers and middle classes into absolute destitution and misery. The crisis of overproduction, its consequent lay-offs and redundancies destroy the purchasing power of the masses who are also crushed under the weight of rising prices and taxation which they can no longer afford. Millions of workers today are a pay cheque away from ruination. Raising taxation of empty homes in London does nothing to undermine the financial power of the landlord and capitalist class, it does nothing to alleviate the underlying cause of the people’s misery – capitalism. Only under socialism, where the private ownership of the land by a tiny few is replaced with a socialist system of land ownership and taxation, where the recurrent crisis of capitalism is done away with and replaced by planned production can the working man and woman finally find themselves liberated.

Note

The IPPR is from a social democratic think-tank with a long history of providing Labour IPPR logoparty class collaborators with policy proposals designed to paper over the cracks of an increasingly divided and unequal society, its chair of trustees is Lord Adonis and in 2016 it appointed Tom Kibasi its Director. Mr Kibasi has worked for the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Bill Gates Foundation.

Birmingham solidarity with Venezuela

We held a successful meeting in solidarity with revolutionary Venezuela on 19 February in Birmingham. The meeting was well attended and heard from leading Venezuelan trade union leader Marcos Garcia, and Helena Menendez of the embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Introducing the meeting for Birmingham Worker our comrade said,

“The recent escalation of US aggression against Venezuela has been dressed up in the language of ‘human rights’, ignoring, as ever, the fact that human rights abuses by or on behalf of the government are as imaginary as were the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in Iraq.

The real nature of US imperialism’s concept of human rights was demonstrated by the country’s psychopathic national security adviser, John Bolton who, “Perhaps most brazenly … appeared in an interview on Fox Business and disclosed that the US government was in talks with American corporations on how to capitalise on Venezuela’s oil reserves, which are proven to be the world’s largest.

“We’re in conversation with major American companies now,” he said. “I think we’re trying to get to the same end result here … It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” (see Inside John Bolton’s month-long PR campaign against Venezuela’s government)

Venezuela has foolproof election arrangements that cannot be manipulated in any way (in contrast to what those of the United States!) Yet all elections in Venezuela since the government of Hugo Chávez and his successors (aka the ‘Chavistas’) took over the government and started to use the profits of Venezuela’s oil to improve the lives of ordinary people (rather than to enrich US multinational oil companies), have been pronounced ‘fraudulent’ by the US – except the one parliamentary election that opponents of the government happened to win!

In attempting to remove Nicolás Maduro and his government, US imperialism wants new elections to be called – but only ones that it is able to manipulate to produce the results it wants.

For the last two decades, the US government and its various agencies have spent huge amounts of money trying to bolster the election prospects of Venezuela’s anti-government minority, all to no avail (which, incidentally, does not prevent it moaning on about totally fictitious Russian meddling in US elections).”

For more information read: It is imperative to halt the imperialist military adventure against Venezuela

To get in touch and participate in Venezuela solidarity work in Birmingham, fill in the form below:

Cllr Majid Mahmood resignation as Labour wages war on the bin men.

labour stab worker in the back

Confirmed reports today are that Cllr Mahmood has resigned as Cabinet member for waste and that the Labour led city-council plan to seek a court order against industrial action by both Unite and Unison in an attempt to batter the workers into submission.

Cllr Mahmood today tweeted:

cllr mahmood resignation

If indeed he has stepped down, it will be sad for many to see Cllr Mahmood depart from the field of battle so quickly, not least because in the eyes of many bin men he had appeared so genuine in promising to resolve the dispute and fight to the very end for the workers. On reflection it looks as though his ‘socialist convictions’ have gotten the better of him and he has thrown the towel in. Now that it is clear that a real fight is on for the Birmingham bin men, Cllr Mahmood’s only reward (if he stuck to his guns) was to be political martyrdom.

Hope may yet reside in the belief that Cllr Mahmood will now expose these rotten careerists from the outside, but that has little effect on the dispute and a man that cannot challenge them from the inside has even less chance on the outside. Clancy may go, Trickett may be moved, but the Labour party is full of Ian Ward’s ready to replace them. The idea that there are Labour councillors ready to fight to the death for their trade union or socialist principles is utter clap trap as we have repeatedly seen since the strike in 2017. The only way to beat them is in battle.

Labour declaration of war

The Labour led city council today openly declared that it intends to use legislation (so-called ‘Tory legislation’ which incidentally was never taken off the statute books when the Labour party were in power) to break the bin men and their trade union. The bin men will now have to fight this battle without Cllr Mahmood (who has to prepare his bid to be Labour Mayoral candidate). Meanwhile the Labour party has to meet with its solicitors and lawyers in order to prepare the assault on trade unionism in Birmingham.

Howard Beckett (not one for waiting to consult with the membership) is reported this afternoon by Birmingham Mail as saying:

“They have made a declaration of war against their own workforce and the people of Birmingham will be affected by the decision they made today…”

“The dispute will be escalating to a full strike.”

Victory to the bin men!

A speedy end to all false hope in Labour councillors!

More info: https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/live-updates-bin-collectors-set-15681091

To give us your feedback or to get involved with our campaigning work in defence of the bin men, leave your details below:

Three cheers for Unison bin workers out on strike! What next for the bin men?

cash for scabs.jpg

Unite have accused Birmingham city council of rewarding those who worked through the 2017 Birmingham bin strike

The Birmingham Mail has reported that Unison have today announced that their members will join with Unite members currently in dispute with the city’s waste services.

Whats happening with the dispute?

Is there a difference between Ian Ward and John Clancy? Is there any difference between Lisa Trickett and Majid Mahmood? Is there a difference between coke and pepsi?

Some people believe there are two Labour party’s – a good one and a nasty one. Howard Beckett considers himself a member of the good one. Then there is Councillor Majid Mahmood who also considers himself a member of the good one, being a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. It’s not that long ago that Howard Beckett was able to tell picket lines that he had been assured by John Clancy that John was a ‘gud old fashioned Labour party man and the workers could trust him. Comrade Clancy stabbed everyone in the back, and he himself was stabbed in the back by his comrades in the Birmingham Labour party.

Workers have to ask themselves – is there any difference between Majid and Lisa, between Ian and John? Birmingham Worker says that there is no fundamental difference between any of these career politicians; they all serve themselves. The Labour Party is a party, it is not the will of one person. In Birmingham the Labour party is rotten to the core, it has stabbed the bin men in the back before and it will do so again. Being in a trusting relationship with the Labour party is like having a cheating spouse.

What’s going on at the top?

Cllr Majid is surely a candidate to get Ian Ward’s job, and no doubt Howard Beckett and the Unite Labour party members would be very supportive of any aspirations he might have. If Cllr Majid could just get a couple of thousand pounds each for every bin man then no doubt Unite will back him for the top job once Ian Ward is out of the way. To do this Majid may possibly have to expose Ian Ward and others for the deals they’ve done with council officers, unfair appointments to jobs and blacklisting are just a few of the accusations currently circulating throughout the council.

If a deal is done, Unite the Union’s Labour party leadership will say that Cllr Mahmood is a decent man who has done a splendid job for Unite’s members, and everyone will celebrate a huge victory, just like before. The bin men may receive a payment in the short term, but it will be extremely difficult to wage a later struggle against the unjust agreement that was implemented in the first place. The struggle for the return to the compressed working week, the collective task and finish will be lost and the public support for industrial action in the near future will be low. Workers shouldn’t sell themselves short, why not demand:

  • jobs for the agency workers
  • the payment of the money for all TU members
  • A return to the compressed working week
  • A return to the collective task & finish

To be kept informed with the activities of the Birmingham Worker Party please get in touch:

Birmingham spends more burying the poor than any other city

labour budget birmingham worker.jpg

Earlier this year we reported how our Labour council’s progressive labour budget had frozen the cost of burials. Now it is revealed that the council stood to benefit the most from such a move – because Birmingham buries more paupers than any other city.

bbc birmingham pauper burials

Our city spent nearly £1 million on funerals known as ‘public health funerals’. These are given to those who have died alone, in poverty or without relatives to cover the cost of the burial. Birmingham buried 395 such people, that’s one for every 22 who were buried in the city. In the light of this, Labour’s generous budget commitment to keep the cost of burials low is shown up for what it is, pure self interest.

For more information see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-46796036

and https://birminghamworker.org/2018/04/05/poverty-on-the-rise-as-birminghams-labour-council-freezes-burial-fees/ 

Defend Brexit and manufacturing jobs in Birmingham

jlr

JLR, Bentley, Aston Martin and many other big players in the car industry are fighting an anti-Brexit propaganda war, blaming everything on Brexit. If you listened to these powerful giants whose businesses are worth billions you would be led to believe that before the British people voted to Leave there had never been any problems in the car industry! The facts are different. The facts are that there is a huge crisis in the car industry, not because of Brexit, but because of two main factors. Firstly, the manufacturers have made more cars than they can shift.  Whilst the overproduction crisis preceded Brexit and will get worse with or without Brexit, Bentley are not lying when they warn about possible disruption of supply lines, e.g. engines imported from Germany. However, disruptions or no disruptions, there’s too many Bentleys and not enough millionaires to buy them.

Secondly, the large, powerful car producers are constantly looking for excuses and opportunities to outsource jobs and export their capital to foreign countries where labour and costs are cheaper. The manufacturers and their shareholders are motivated by making bigger profits. Just now, having made more cars than they can sell the manufacturers see their opportunity to jump ship and blame it all on Brexit!

In recent years JLR, Aston Martin, Bentley and other manufacturers have made billions of pounds in profit. These companies must not be allowed to throw hundreds of workers who’ve generated these huge profits straight onto the dole. Workers must be kept on full pay and manufacturing jobs protected. Companies who’ve made huge profits must not be allowed to undermine the democratic will of the British people to Leave the EU.

Defend manufacturing jobs

Defend Brexit!

More info on suspected job losses: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2018/12/21/news/ft-leaks-plans-by-jaguar-land-rover-to-axe-5000-jobs/

Brexit Paralysis : https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2018/12/31/news/brexit-paralysis-government-and-opposition-in-a-shambles/

FT leaks plans by Jaguar Land Rover to axe 5,000 jobs

jlr

FT says company plans to axe thousands of jobs in Birmingham area

At the end of November, following a slump in sales, JLR announced job losses at its Solihull plant, following hard on the heels of its move last April to wipe out 1,000 of the total 9,000 jobs. JLR plans to move production of the Discovery to Slovakia, whilst Solihull is retooled to produce electric cars with a smaller workforce.

Worse was reported yesterday when the FT and Guardian announced that insiders had said more than 5,000 jobs are to be axed:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/16/jaguar-land-rover-to-axe-up-to-5000-jobs 

https://www.ft.com/content/c4f06f8e-ff99-11e8-aebf-99e208d3e521

Over at JLR’s engine-building plant in Wolverhampton, weak demand has forced the company to extend the Christmas shut-down by two weeks.

The global overproduction crisis continues to put the squeeze right across  the automotive industry, sparking the beginnings of a workers’ revolt. Over at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant, successive waves of redundancies have seen the workforce shrink from 1,900 to 1,100. In November, when a further 241 redundancies were announced, workers responded with a mass walk-out.

Whilst JLR blames variously the “demonisation of diesel” and Brexit for the company’s problems, the fundamental cause is to be found in the anarchy of capitalist production, which creates regular overproduction crises. This means that capitalism produces far too many things than can be consumed – rather than producing the things which are needed, it produces items for maximum profit. This drive for maximum profit also means that many processes are automated to be carried out by robots – a process which also puts many thousands out of work.

Until the means of production – factories, farms, etc – are socialised, and production is planned to meet people’s needs, not to make private profit, workers’ jobs will continue to be a hostage to fortune, prey to all the vagaries of capitalist ‘free market’ forces.

In the short term, workers must demand that their factory should be nationalised and kept going. If there really is no demand for the cars being produced, the factory should be transformed to produce something that people do need, and workers retrained to make it.

If we are still faced with the problem of ‘lack of demand’ (ie, workers not having enough money to pay for the things they need), then it is clear that the whole system needs to be transformed, not merely a single factory. What kind of insanity is it when the workers who produce all of society’s superabundant wealth are unable to share in that abundance – are unable even to feed their families or keep a roof over their heads?

Only by fighting for socialism can we secure a future of secure jobs, full employment and advancing living standards.

If you work at JLR or want to help the workers there, get in touch with the Birmingham Worker:

Why are my bins not collected?

Thousands of bin collections are being missed because of Birmingham councils ineptitude and refusal to listen to the people who deliver the service.

The escalating problem was discussed this afternoon at a mass meeting of Unite members at the Birmingham and Midland Institute.

Labour councillors last year wasted more than £6million of tax payer’s money attempting to attack the wages of local bin men, £6m that could have been spent on child services, looking after our elderly and preventing the worst effects of poverty in Birmingham.
Having lied to the public last year during the bin dispute, the Council have again double-crossed workers. In bringing the dispute to an end last year, a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between the council and the workforce was agreed. Measures set out a new five day work pattern, an undertaking to employ the dozens of agency workers on proper contracts and agreed to ensure that every general bin wagon had a proper full time driver, WRCO (waste reduction collection officer) and loader. These men are graded 4, 3 and 2 based upon the level of responsibility each man has.

Missed collections

Hundreds of roads are having their collections missed as a result of the new 5 day pattern. On a single Monday in November 170 roads were left with rubbish on the street.

Pleading poverty the Council has failed to employ new full time staff as agreed last year. Casual agency labour should have had contracts by now, but the council is stalling as punishment for strike action last year. The council has failed to properly plan the refuse service resulting in thousands of missed collections, is refusing overtime to council staff to clean up the littered roads and is instead trying to pay agency labour to cover their tracks, and is blaming the whole saga on lazy bin workers who they claim are not doing their bit. This would be the same workers who in 2017 agreed to work an extra 50 days a year for no extra pay!

Bad employment practices

In an attempt to divide the workforce and punish those who went on strike in defense of a safe and efficient service, the Council has rewarded those workers who are members of unions which did not take strike action. Although it claims to be out of money the council has paid sums of £4,600 (and more) to workers who didn’t strike, and has allowed members of other unions to continue to work a four day week. It is quite clear that Birmingham City Council thinks it can divide some, bribe others and turn its back on every agreement it makes with workers and their trade unions.

Money to cover up their mess

Last year the council squandered £millions on confidential payments to private refuse firms during the strike. Somebody got very rich, very quick… The council claims it has no money for essential services, is cutting nurseries and attacking care workers, yet they have found hundreds of thousands of pounds to spend on the new Birmingham Wholesale Market which they built as a joint investment with private finance up in Perry Barr. And having built it badly, the council has spent hundreds of thousands in rectification works. Elsewhere they have introduced car parking charges at public parks and recreation areas, pricing out many ordinary families, and int he service of big business their rates department harass small cafe owners in search of increases in the rent. They are acting like gangsters, and clearly think that their two-faced tactics will be enough to beat the bin men. The bin men, and Birmingham residents have to say together that enough is enough!

Lessons from 2017

When the bin men went up against the council last year, it was in defence of terms and conditions. The workers had to fight a Labour council, every bit as bad as any Tory council. Unions try to prevent strikes against Labour councils, they prefer to make deals with Labour councils because unions are full of Labour party members. They all share comfy jobs and don’t want to derail the gravy train. Unite were desperate for a deal right from the moment Howard Beckett arrived, Unite had no faith in victory unless it was declared in Court, Unite have given away the best part of 50 rest days a year, not only rest days for Grade 3’s but also Grade 4’s & 2’s. They said no other deal was possible. But is that true? Strike action cost the council over £6million – it nearly sank them! Unite threw their friends in the Labour council a life line by calling off the strike action TWICE and giving away the rest days of all grades.