Birmingham City Council Wheelie Bin

The High Court in London has declined the request for an interim injunction against Birmingham City Council by the union Unite.

Yesterday the union travelled to London to present a request for an interim injunction against the council. The request was rejected as the judge recognised there needed to be a full trial to address ‘serious issues’ as soon as possible.

The union is now gearing up to escalate the industrial action and will be consulting with reps and members tomorrow.

Commenting on the decision by the courts to hold a full trial Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said:“While the court has not felt able to give an interim injunction pending the final hearing, Unite is pleased that the judge has recognised that there needs to be a full trial held on ‘serious issues’ as quickly as possible, to investigate whether Birmingham council is undermining the 2017 High Court agreement.

“We welcome the observations of the judge to the effect that ‘although it is not for him to decide on the merits of the case, that the councils arguments have difficulty’. The court today sent a clear message to the Council that the union has the better arguments and can expect to achieve an injunction at the full hearing.

“Unite believes that the trial will fully reveal how Birmingham council has been in breach of the agreement, for a number of months, that all bin lorries must have a safety critical worker in attendance when they are operating.

“Birmingham council’s decision to undermine the High Court agreement is jeopardising the safety of residents and workers alike.

“As there is no immediate injunction we have no option but to consult tomorrow with our reps and members about escalating the industrial action, in order to ensure workers are no longer being placed in danger.

“If Birmingham council does not give an immediate assurance that it will abide by the 2017 agreement and restore safety critical staff to all bin lorries, Unite will be forced to ballot for industrial action on this matter.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “As stated from the outset, we entirely refute the misleading claims made by Unite that formed the basis of this court hearing.

“The Leading Hand role no longer exists. By agreement with Unite and with the backing of a Court Order in November 2017, it was replaced with the Waste Reduction Collection Officer role, which went operational in September 2018.

“Due to the industrial action instigated by Unite, we have had to introduce a contingency plan featuring the use of mop-up crews and contractors (their own staff, fuel and vehicles) in order to continue to provide a waste service to the residents, visitors and businesses of Birmingham. This falls outside the remit of the agreement reached to end the 2017 dispute.

“In simple terms, the claims made by Unite were without merit.

“We invite Unite the union to reconsider their position as a matter of urgency to end the dispute so we can finally get back to the work needed to provide the level of service that citizens expect and deserve.”

The industrial action which involved over 300 refuse workers will intensify next week with workers starting a programme of strike action from Tuesday 19 February. The two days a week of strike action is in addition to an overtime ban and the work to rule which started on Saturday 29 December 2018.