Today is due to be the start of industrial action by Birmingham
City Council's binmen, a strike solely the responsibility of the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat administration that set a local trend in 2004 for what we see on a national scale today.
You will doubtless be aware of the pay and regrading and the Single Status processes carried out by the City Council over the past fee years. One of the outcomes of that was a regrading of the binmen's jobs that would have seen many of them lose thousands of pounds in wages - figures of £4000 have been regularly mentioned - and when this was proposed, the binmen objected and threatened to strike. The council decided at a very high level that while they could stomach strikes by some less visible council staff, electoral prospects would be damaged by rubbish piling up in the streets. Accordingly, a dodgy deal was worked out which effectively stuffed the dustmens' pockets with cash to stop the strike. Unfortunately, this then meant that thousands of other workers - predominantly women - in similarly-skilled jobs were being paid less, a situation that could not go unnoticed for long and was rapidly the subject of legal action. Despite advice from counsel that the agreement was unlawful and obviously discriminatory, the City Council pushed on until the action was duly lost - a waste of taxpayers' money if ever there was one - delaying the inevitable defeat and ensuing pay cuts.
That has now come to pass and the strike is the result. The council did offer negotiations, delaying strike action for a few weeks, but it appears that this offer was simply a tactic to delay matters, allowing casual staff to be recruited through local agencies to temporarily replace the binmen, at a cost - the health and safety personal protective kit and clothing has apparently cost £20,000 alone.
Money well spent?