Coun­cil tar­geted by new equal pay claim af­ter bin strike

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Govern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

EQUAL pay lawyers are again tar­get­ing Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil staff in the wake of the lat­est bin strike – claim­ing the au­thor­ity could be landed with an­other huge bill.

In the last decade the coun­cil has been forced to pay out more than £1.1 bil­lion in equal pay claims and was forced to sell ma­jor as­sets like the NEC, ICC and NIA and Grand Cen­tral Shop­ping Cen­tre to off­set the bill. Even then it needed huge loans which will be paid back for decades – tak­ing funds from front­line ser­vices.

Unique bonuses, shift al­lowances, shorter work­ing hours and rou­tine over­time paid to bin­men up to 2011 but not made avail­able to other staff in­clud­ing care work­ers was a key fac­tor in the equal pay claims. The coun­cil lost a se­ries of em­bar­rass­ing court cases over the is­sue.

Now lawyers are again sign­ing up staff with fresh claims hav­ing seen the coun­cil’s huge £8.4 mil­lion bill last year for over­time and agency staff work­ing on the bins.

Dar­ren Smith of Equal Pay Le­gal said he be­lieved a com­bi­na­tion of the four-day week and high level of over­time sug­gested other coun­cil staff had a claim.

He said: “The bin strike has noth­ing to do with agency staff costs.

“It is about the coun­cil try­ing to rem­edy the rel­a­tive over­pay of bin­men as it is so keen to avoid a huge equal pay li­a­bil­ity.

“The coun­cil is ter­ri­fied of the huge li­a­bil­ity they have left the Bir- ming­ham tax pay­ers by not ad­dress­ing this is­sue prop­erly in 2011.”

But both the city coun­cil and unions have re­jected the claim. A trade union source said: “This was all sorted out years ago af­ter the last strike.

“Our lawyers and coun­cil lawyers con­firmed the struc­ture agreed in 2011 was equal pay com­pli­ant.”

The coun­cil was not able to re­spond as the Post went to press but will do so in due course.

RUB­BISH strewn across Birm­ing­ham’s streets is not down to the strikes but bin­men not do­ing their jobs prop­erly the rest of the day.

That was the view of Coun­cil Leader John Clancy, who said the au­thor­ity in­structed man­agers to “get tough” to en­sure bins were be­ing col­lected and emp­tied dur­ing the seven hours a day dust­men were on duty.

The Unite union has been op­er­at­ing a work to rule and over­time ban along­side daily two-hour strikes since the start of July.

Labour leader Cllr Clancy (Lab, Quin­ton) said: “There’s a two-hour strike each day and there’s other in­dus­trial ac­tion.

“Clearly, the im­pact of this is not nec­es­sar­ily the re­sult of the two-hour strike. In those cir­cum­stances we have to re­spond to the fact the ser­vice is not be­ing de­liv­ered in the way it should be de­liv­ered.

“We are in­sist­ing that even though peo­ple are on strike for two hours, they are still get­ting the job done in the times that they are not. Peo­ple still have to do their jobs.”

He said that the au­thor­ity had or­gan­ised ex­tra col­lec­tions us­ing pri­vate waste op­er­a­tors. At the week­end an ex­tra 220 tonnes of rub­bish was cleared.

“We had to have a big push at the week­end. I think as each day goes by we will find the city is get­ting in a bet­ter po­si­tion,” he added.

Last week, coun­cil bosses wrote to the union warn­ing it over the bin­men’s per­for­mance – but Unite dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions as “spu­ri­ous”.

Unite as­sis­tant gen­eral sec­re­tary Howard Beck­ett said: “The com­ments from the coun­cil leader Cllr John Clancy are un­help­ful as Unite con­tin-

We are in­sist­ing that even though peo­ple are on strike for two hours, they are still get­ting the job done in the times that they are not Coun­cil Leader Clancy

> Coun­cil leader Clancy said the bins strike was not be blame for rub­bish pil­ing up, rather dust­men ‘not de­liv­er­ing’

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