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Union and council locked in legal battle over strike

Both sides in the refuse strike row in Birmingham this week launched court actions against the other as positions became more entrenched.

Trade union Unite has unsuccessfully asked the High Court for an injunction to restrain Birmingham City Council from what it says is a breach of the agreement that ended a previous strike in 2017.

This concerned the council’s use of contractors to clear refuse accumulated during Unite’s work to rule, in progress since early January.

The council welcomed the court’s refusal and said Unite’s claims “were without merit”. It urged the union to “reconsider their position as a matter of urgency to end the dispute”.

Meanwhile the council has started seeking an injunction to prevent Unite taking what it says is unlawful industrial action, which the union intends this month to escalate into a series of 24-hour stoppages.

A council statement said: “After exhausting all other options, we have regrettably been left with no option but to seek legal action in the form of an injunction to end the ongoing industrial dispute.”

The dispute is over how the 2017 strike ended. Members of the smaller GMB union were not involved and so were not consulted on the eventual deal.

Birmingham later admitted this was wrong and compensated GMB members.

Unite has argued that this amounts to paying GMB members for not striking and has demanded its members get a similar sum.

Assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite attended talks at ACAS [on Tuesday] in good faith only to discover that the terms of settlement proposed now by Birmingham council are worse than the unacceptable terms previously on offer.

“Under those circumstances the talks collapsed immediately and given the attitude of the council there is little prospect of further talks taking place in the near future.”

Birmingham’s cabinet last week discussed four options for ending the strike, which included a payment to Unite members.

It said it offered this undisclosed amount if it was accepted before 2359 hours on Tuesday and began injunction proceedings when it was not.

This article first appeared in MRW’s sister title LGC.

 

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