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Birmingham refuse workers ballot on strike

The Unite union is asking refuse workers in Birmingham to vote on strike action, after accusing the council of financial mismanagement.

Unite said members were angry about waste service job cuts proposed by Birmingham City Council. The union said the authority had overspent the service’s budget by £9.7m in the financial year for 2016.

It also criticised plans to “tear up longstanding agreements” over staffing levels and working patterns.

Unite regional officer Lynne Shakespeare said: “We engaged with waste and refuse bosses in a constructive manner only to learn that it was a massive overspend which is driving these cuts and not austerity measures.

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

“We would urge management to begin listening to the workforce and to start talking meaningfully with Unite to avoid the prospect of industrial action in the coming months.”

The council said it was committed to working with unions and that the ballot was “disappointing”.

Jacqui Kennedy, corporate director for place at the council, said the authority needed to save £171m by 2021.

“In terms of waste management, pressures and demands on the service continue, and mean we have to find ways of saving in the region of £10m more on an annual basis,” she added.

“Doing nothing is simply not an option. 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.”

The ballot closes on 14 June.

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