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Payoff or injunction options to end Birmingham strike

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Cabinet members are due to decide next week whether to try to settle Birmingham’s bitter refuse collectors’ strike or seek an injunction to ban it.

Unite members have been working to rule intermittently since early January but have now threatened several days of all-out action.

The strike is over the way a previous dispute was settled in 2017, with Unite claiming that members of the rival GMB union unfairly received an additional payment.

The cabinet will be asked to choose between:

  • · Take no action and await an employment tribunal not expected to sit until February 2020.
  • · Make a one-off payment for up to £3,000 to strikers to settle the dispute
  • · Make a payment to Unite.
  • · Seek an injunction to halt the strike on the grounds that it is unlawful.

A report to the cabinet said counsel had advised the industrial action is unlawful, and that council was “highly likely to successfully defend [these] claims”.

But the tribunal would not sit for a year and the strike is costing Birmingham up to £350,000 per week, the report said, with the cost of providing a contingency service during the strike at anything between £13.5m to £28.2m depending on whether the industrial action proved continuous or not.

The report warned that making a payment to either Unite members or direct to the union could set a precedent with “an increase in industrial unrest, with union members choosing to strike because they would then be likely to expect to receive a financial settlement and not because of specific issues leading to a trade dispute”.

Monitoring officer Kate Charlton warned about the two pay-off options in the report: “Whilst I am of the view that there is no certainty as to whether a challenge on the grounds of ultra vires would be successful, I cannot say that the risk is nil.”


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