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Why we'll soon have social workers emptying our bins in Birmingham

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 09/09/2017 Neil Elkes

Social workers, librarians, park rangers and thousands of other council staff are being offered shifts on the bins to help the city clear up the streets after strike action.

But the binmen’s union Unite has branded the move as ‘irresponsible’ warning that putting untrained refuse workers and drivers on the streets presents a public safety risk.

The council has sent an email to all staff offering to pay drivers £10.29 per hour and bin loaders £8.30 per hour for the strike breaking shifts on evenings and weekends.

It has already drafted in extra agency staff and contractors to speed up collections. The bitter dispute over the downgrading of jobs and changes to working practices has been going on for 71 days.

It reads: “To fulfil our duty to collect the city’s waste, and to minimise the adverse effects of the disruption on our citizens, we are looking for support from colleagues across the council who may be able to help collect waste during evenings and /or at weekends.

“Please make sure you bring these opportunities – which are for existing council staff to undertake casual additional work in waste management – to the attention of all staff.”

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Birmingham Mail

The shifts are from 5pm to 9pm on weekdays and 6am to 3pm Sunday – which council insists is not in breach of industrial dispute regulations because it is outside normal working hours.

Assistant general secretary of Unite Howard Beckett, representing the city’s binmen, said: “This is yet more evidence of the lengths Birmingham City Council will go to in order to slash pay and put loyal workers on the dole. The council should be focusing its efforts on solving the dispute, rather than trying to break it with bribes to untrained ‘volunteers’.

"Putting untrained drivers and refuse workers on the streets of Birmingham raises serious health and safety concerns for public safety. It is not the behaviour of a responsible local authority or a responsible employer. With the ballot to extend our strike action opening today and the council facing a high court hearing next week, this behaviour from the council risks inflaming the dispute further.”

The council email says that training will be given.

The job descriptions

Driver: £10.29 per hour

To be a driver, supported by a team of casual loaders, a Category B driving licence is needed to drive caged tippers to collect waste from allocated rounds. Applicants who don’t already drive for the council will need to attend an Occupational Health appointment and take a driver assessment.

Loader: £8.30 per hour

Loaders will join a team of casual staff to collect waste from allocated rounds

Both roles will need staff to operate from any of our four depots across the city (Montague Street, Lifford Lane, Redfern and Perry Barr). Where possible, we’ll try to ensure any depot preference expressed is met.

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