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27 September 2017

Birmingham bin strike: council humiliated in court battle - but war isn't over yet

Birmingham Socialist Party

A Tyseley bin worker summed it up nicely: "We've taken the lead, but it's only half time."

As Unite the Union won its High Court victory against the illegal redundancy notices issued by Labour-run Birmingham council, it's another round to the bin workers. Judge Fraser, referring to chaos in the council, said: "Neither party (councillors or officers) comes out of this sorry saga with any credit at all." The public can now see even more clearly who caused this mess.

The court ruling may be a window where bosses are sacked and the council come to a just deal - and we hope for the best - or it may be a window for the courts and council to plan to attack the workers again. So workers must be prepared to resume the fight. The tremendous ballot result of 92% in favour of action gives a platform to resume the battle if it arises.

In the meantime, we should work to build support across the council workforce that we may need later. Meeting them at workplaces to explain the threat to their jobs and conditions revealed during this dispute.

This has been another setback for the council in what's been a long attritional war. A war bin workers have proved they have the stomach for. As one lad said: "We should all be proud of ourselves."

But the council has not declared an end to its war on jobs and services and will be egged on by the Tory government. Unite and the trade union and socialist movement must continue our war against attacks on working people and austerity for workers while the wealthy get millions.

As well as preparing to fight with industrial action, we should fight on other fronts as well. A fight to change the council. Who are these so-called 'Labour' councillors who have been happy to sack workers or take 5,000 a year off them?

Ballot box

Next year, every council seat is up for election. Whoever wins a seat then is there for at least four years, with no other elections to be able to change them.

Unite should give no political support to councillors who've behaved in this way, and should work to change them all. If they aren't changed then the trade union and socialist movement needs to consider challenging them, the Socialist Party is certainly discussing that option.

Outside the High Court, Unite's Howard Beckett said: "The High Court ruling leaves Birmingham council's unfair and unjust plans in tatters. The council needs to reflect on the misery it has inflicted on the people of Birmingham and its own bin workers.

"Stella Manzie, the chief executive of Birmingham City Council, must now step down. She has repeatedly used the threat of equal pay cases to frighten and bully the council into agreeing the downgrade of long-serving bin workers when it has no substance whatsoever and was not so much as mentioned by her legal team.

"This ruling underlines that Unite will not shrink away from using all the tools at its disposal to defend its members and the services they deliver."




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26203