Birmingham council refuse workers in strike ballot over cuts

BIRMINGHAM City Council's refuse collection workers have started voting in a strike ballot, with unions accusing the authority of financial mismanagement amid proposed job losses.

Unite said the council has blamed budget pressures and austerity measures for the planned cuts, as well as changes to agreements on staffing levels and work patterns, but it has claims they are actually being carried out because the service overspent £9.7m by in the 2016 financial year.

"To date, despite repeated requests, we have not been given any information as to how and why such a huge sum was overspent in a year," said Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare.

"Instead, bosses are ploughing on with their cuts, leaving workers to pick up the pieces for their financial mismanagement and taxpayers out of pocket."

The council said it needs to save around £10m more a year from its waste management service and doing nothing is "simply not an option".

"As has been widely reported, the council needs to save £171m by 2021 and this is a challenge being faced by all service areas within the council," said corporate director for place Jacqui Kennedy.

"We need to offer our services in a more productive, effective and efficient way. The proposals we are consulting on will achieve all of these objectives and bring the council's waste management service into line with many other councils nationally.

"For some staff this could mean taking up a different role, and there are sufficient vacancies within the new structure proposal to ensure that all affected staff have this opportunity. We are also looking at how we can make promotion opportunities available for those potentially affected.

"It is evident that there are more cost effective ways of working in refuse collection. The consultation period has already been extended twice at the request of the trades unions to enable them to develop some alternative proposals.

"Management are committed to working closely with union colleagues to help them produce alternative proposals. It is therefore disappointing this action is being encouraged whilst we continue to work so closely."

The strike ballot will run until 14 June.