Birmingham bin strike day 1

Perry Barr depot this morning
Montague pickets and Howard Beckett
Redfern road pickets
Lifford Lane all out

It was a solid start to picketing and strike action this morning as bin workers escalated their action against Birmingham city council. The Council, controlled by the local Labour party continues to set aside £350,000 a week for private contractors to enrich themselves rather than settle the dispute with Unite.

Cameras at Tyseley depot this morning are indicative of a rising sentiment of disbelief that the cash strapped council remains so insistent in pursuing it’s mad policy. The media reports will be watched attentively by all those in the labour movement.

Solidarity with the striking workers will be key to winning the dispute.

To get involved with our campaigning work in defence of the bin men, leave your details below:

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.

Join us at Councillor Trickett’s surgery this Thursday 6pm (cpgb-ml)

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Local residents outside Lisa Trickett’s surgery in September

The Birmingham bin strike is far from over. The ballot of industrial action is valid from Monday, although bin men won’t be taking strike action as they are relying on the Union lawyers and officials to come to some sort of agreement with the Council else see the matter settled in their favour in the Courts.

Reliance on the bourgeois courts is the favoured tactic of most trade union negotiators these days when settlement through agencies like ACAS isn’t possible. Having seen the tangible value of an ACAS agreement in August, and the back-stabbing antics of the Labour Party, the CPGB-ML is of the opinion that the real strength of the workers lies in industrial action and political pressure exerted against the Labour party. Closing your eyes and wishing that your cheating, lieing, underhand partner is going to change their ways is wishful thinking. The reality of the trade union – Labour party “relationship” has tragic consequences for the workers who fail to ascertain that endless pleading with Labour to “see sense” gets you nowhere – bullies only understand strength and there’s no choice but to fight them.

Join CPGB-ML outside the surgery of Councillor Trickett

Thursday 12th October 6.00 – 7.00pm

Moseley Exchange, Moseley Community Development Trust, The Post Office Building, 149 – 153 Alcester Road, Moseley, Birmingham, B13 8JP

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Demand a vote on any deal & target Labour party councillors

The coming days and weeks in the Birmingham bin strike will be crucial for the bin men. Tonight (Tuesday 19 September), the Party Committee of Birmingham CPGB-ML discussed the likely outcome of the High Court ruling in London and the success of both last Thursday’s Trickett picket and the Sunday rally.

High Court

Firstly we fully expect the High Court to cobble together a decision that will enable both Unite and the Council to claim some sort of victory. As with the fiasco of the ACAS deal, it is only right and proper that the workers vote on whether to accept such a deal and return to work. The decision cannot be made on their behalf by officials and stewards alone. Furthermore, any deal that delays the demands of the workers should be challenged until the Grade 3s are given a cast iron guarantee that their job is protected.

It is the job of social democracy to ensure that the anger of the mistreated working classes is dissipated. They do this by announcing public inquiries and commissions as in Grenfell and in the case of industrial disputes, they use ACAS and the Courts to get men back to work on promises alone. This has happened once before in this dispute. If the men are offered a promise, or if the men are offered a temporary concession or deal, perhaps even a pause in hostilities, they must push on for total victory. Don’t clean the streets up only to have to come out again! Each delay only gives the Council more time to prepare their attack and undermine the strike.

Labour

Secondly our Party believes a campaign targeting Labour councillors and members at Ward meetings and constituency party meetings will pressure the local Labour Party to think again and encourage the welcome process already begun of internal Labour party back-stabbing whereby Momentum and others are emboldened to attack and remove incumbent councillors. Dissention in the enemy’s ranks is to be welcomed. Our party notes with amusement the beginnings of the great purge in local CLP’s and offers the following advice to the butchers,

“Today you amputate one limb, tomorrow another, the day after tomorrow a third – what will we have left in the Party” (J V Stalin 1924).
Victory to the bin workers!

Photographers images from bin workers demo

Communist and photographer Stalingrad took these great photos at Sunday’s rally in support of Birmingham bin men, enjoy!