Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party come out in support of the bin workers

Members of Moseley and Kings Heath Labour Party ward had a liveley meeting on Thursday 14th, with the main item being the ongoing bin-workers strike. 

Lisa Trickett, one of our councillors, is the cabinet member responsible for handling this affair and so a number of us thought it was particularly important that we address the issue. An emergency motion was put in and accepted, with a quite basic position agreed in communication with Unite- that the council should honour the agreement reached at ACAS, as this retained the Grade 3 positions

A Unite member in the branch proposed the motion, focussing in particular on the dead-end that austerity represents for the Labour Party. We have seen in both France and Greece the process of virtual or complete destruction of social-democratic parties that have stuck to austerity and Labour both locally and nationally needs to avoid that fate. 

A lively discussion of the motion followed, at first in Trickett’s absence as she had not arrived at the meeting. When Trickett arrived and it was proposed from the floor that she should be given 10 minutes to address the issues which was agreed, although this was not unanimous. Some wondered why a member who arrived half way though the consideration of a motion should be given extra time. However Trickett was given the time, which she used effectively to argue that as the council had already regraded a lot of women workers and reduced their pay that there was no way she was going to allow ‘a group of men’ to avoid the same fate. Here, what was being argued for was equality of misery – all workers should be treated equally badly by the council. 

Members for the most part rejected this argument. The point was made that as the public wanted their bins collected and the public supported retaining the Grade 3 posts on the grounds of safety, the council should respond to this and retain those posts. The example of Bristol, which had an 8000 strong demonstration against austerity initiated by a Labour Mayor was a far better model of how to move forward than Birmingham’s sorry tale. 

When it came to a vote, the result was 22 for supporting a deal retaining grade 3 positions, 11 against and abstentions. A collection was then taken raising over £100 for the strikers. A number of us thought that this was the best meeting that we’d had in a long time and we will continue to do whatever we can to support the bin workers.

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Bin it for the long haul 

For those of you following the bin dispute closely the email below may be very interesting. It would appear to be an attempt to get other council workers to do the refuse workers jobs for them while the strike continues.It would also seem to suggest that the council leadership is a) planning for the long haul on this one and no resolution is in sight and b) that the arguments about the planned changes to pay, terms and conditions being about efficiency and saving money are looking increasingly hollow if a plan as expensive as this is being contemplated.

 

******

 

This is an important update to the managers’ bulletin you received earlier today, which is attached below:

 

Please note that the £8.30 rate quoted for ‘loader’ is the bottom of GR2 grade but that this will be enhanced to £8.45 an hour under our commitment to the Living Wage. This rate took effect from 1 April 2017 and is reviewed annually.

 

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Managers’ Bulletin 320: Casual evening and weekend working opportunities for staff – supporting the collection of waste from the city’s streets

 

As all managers are no doubt aware, the council is in the process of addressing a dispute within Waste Management. 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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Why you’re getting this information

The support required is to collect waste from 5pm to 9pm Monday to Friday and from 6am to 3pm Saturday and Sunday, in addition to the work staff would normally perform as part of their existing role. Managers are expected to support any team member/s who express an interest in the opportunities – and release them for appropriate training, subject to the needs of your service.    

Staff are sought for the following roles:

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.

Staff who are successful in being selected for any of these roles will need to complete a training course before being asked to undertake any work. The course will cover all relevant operational matters and health and safety. Staff will need to be released from their current role to undertake this training. (Dates to be confirmed.)

Payment for work will be made the following month. For example, work undertaken in September will be paid in October. Managers in Waste Management will keep appropriate records to ensure that payment is received.

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What you need to do next

If you, or any of your team members, are interested in one of these roles:

• Please download and complete the Waste Management expression of interest form, which should be returned to WasteRecruitment@birmingham.gov.uk by 5pm on 14 September 2017.

• In the first instance, you should discuss interest with your own manager to ensure that anyone who is interested can be released for the training. It’s also important to check that any effect on current duties is minimised.

Staff will be advised on the outcome of their Expression of Interest and the next steps by 19 September 2017.

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Additional information

• While the council is grateful for the support that staff may wish to offer, this may not be taken up if interest in the additional work is greater than the number of roles needed.

• The council reserves the right to undertake a selection process that would involve an interview and consideration of the availability of candidates in determining who may undertake this work.

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Further information  

If you have any queries, you can contact ************

Selections in South Birmingham – more developments in Weoley and Harborne

I’ve previously written about the Harborne selection for 2018 and the rather problematic candidacy of Sundip Meghani.

There have been a couple of interesting developments in the last few days that thicken the plot significantly.

Firstly, I’m hearing that a further meeting was held in the new Weoley ward on Tuesday with Tristan Chatfield, a well-known anti-Corbyn councillor, was selected unopposed after another candidate who wanted to contest the selection, Fiona Williams, wasn’t even told about the meeting.

Rumour has it that following vociferous complaints the meeting will be re-run. If this is true then that’s excellent news.

And then there has been this rather worrying piece in the Birmingham Mail about the Harborne selection. As well as all of the problems I was made aware of, namely two candidates not being told about the meeting, having the meeting in the middle of the summer holidays, Meghani’s empty ‘activity diary’ and women applicants to the panel not being given an opportunity to stand; we are now told there is an additional and potentially more serious allegation – eligible members not even being informed about the meeting.

The fact that Neil Elkes, the ‘Local Government Correspondent for the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post’ is now writing about this just goes to show how serious it is becoming and the damage the episode is doing.

Surely the time has come for the West Midlands Regional Office and leadership of Edgbaston CLP to stop stonewalling, do the decent thing, take a leaf out of Weoley’s book and re-run the meeting.

They can then help stop the reputation of the Birmingham Labour Party being dragged through the mud and maybe give the Harborne Labour Party a fighting chance of winning their local election next year?

 

MW

Report on the Refuse Workers strike 14/08/2017

One of our members has been closely following the refuse workers strike. 

Birmingham refuse workers from the Unite Union are taking a sixth week of strike action against the council’s proposals to cut jobs and change previously agreed terms and conditions. The industrial dispute has seen the workers increase action to three strike hours per day, as of 11/08/2017, Monday to Friday. Almost every worker at the Lifford Lane depot in Stirchley is picketing the main gate. Their resolve is stronger than ever.

This report follows on from report a fortnight ago and the MSB officers give 100% support for the industrial action, and firmly sent our message of solidarity to the workers taking it. We also completely distance our views from those of councillors who belong to any political party, or none, who choose to use this struggle as another platform to serve up devastating cuts that will continue to have the biggest effects to the public sector, and the working-class people of the city who use them and work within them.

The Birmingham Mail’s take on the industrial action has been, as is usually the case, heavily biased against the workers. One of its recent pieces is a thinly-veiled attack on the whole concept of collective industrial action (Neil Elle’s, 10/08/17, Birmingham Mail) and highlights a complete lack of understanding of working-class struggle. We expect nothing more from a paper that regularly blames the workers for the problems that have been created by the political class, introducing counter-productive systems with little or no consultation.

It is really important to look at the facts surrounding this dispute, and the workers on the picket line could write a lengthy book on it. These workers, the most class-conscious, politically-minded, and experts in their field, are fed-up with hearing the same old buzz words – “modernisation”, “productivity”, “challenging times.” They want to confront the real problems with real facts.

The bosses talk of “productivity”. So, it is reasonable to ask the questions. Narrowed down, the question for everybody might be; “How long does it take to empty a wheelie-bin?” Because the councillors have never emptied a bin in the same way as the workers have, day in, day out, they haven’t got a clue how long it takes. So to find out the facts, Momentum SB asked the workers on the picket line instead.


In our last report on the strike action we wrote about the one-size-fits-all approach that the council has taken to the time that it takes to empty a wheelie-bin. In doing this the council has entirely failed to consider the full logistics of the operation. One of the workers on the picket line told me about a number of properties on their round, where the wheelie bins cannot be left any less than 30 yards from the wagon. To correctly collect, empty and return a recycling bin from a property such as this involves a number of steps. After the sixty-yard initial round trip has been completed, the bin is opened and the pod (the paper/card recycling section) has to be removed and emptied. Because the pods are small, and many residents of Birmingham are so environmentally-conscious, the pods are often stuffed full with paper and card, and therefore it takes more than just turning the pod upside-down once to properly empty it. This adds more time to the job. Then the worker attaches the large wheelie-bin to the back of the wagon. This is the bin containing the cans, bottles and recyclable plastics, and can be very heavy. The bin is then lifted up, emptied, and comes back down, where it is released form the back of the wagon by the worker. The worker then picks up the pod from the floor, puts it back inside the wheelie-bin, and wheels the bin back up any kerbs and around any obstacles, for thirty yards and then puts it back. There are roads with thirty to forty properties like this. Workers question whether the councillors and bosses who are making the decisions to cut their jobs, based on the flimsy claim of increasing “productivity, and who have never had to empty a wheelie-bin in their lives, have taken roads like this into consideration, if at all.

If you factor in the assisted collections – where residents who are disabled or old require additional help to empty their bins – the process gets even longer. One worker told me that on their round there is a property with thirteen steps leading up to the property. At the top of the steps they have to manoeuvre through overgrown brambles and nettles to reach the bins. The dodging of brambles and nettles begins again as the worker wheels the heavy bin down back down the thirteen steps, the wheelie-bin behind them, back down to the pavement. After the bin is emptied correctly, the worker then climbs back up the thirteen steps, negotiates the overgrown garden with the bin behind them, replaces the bin, and descends the thirteen steps for a final time. This is for one property. Fifty-two steps, and not a clean run at that! This takes time, and the bosses completely fail to understand this.

Just as the large grass verge around Broadmeadow and Moneyhall Road, that separates the distance between the wheelie-bins and the wagon, takes a lot longer to travel than the councillors care to consider. Just as in some parts of the city, where the distance between the wagon and the wheelie-bins are separated by recreational areas, meaning that workers have to wheel the bins around lengthy paths, downhill and uphill in order to return them. Again, this takes time – but the councillors and bosses don’t factor this in. In their ignorance, they think that by cutting jobs from the refuse department, the service will somehow improve. And in their arrogance, they expect the general public to swallow this ridiculous claim.

The recycling collection in Birmingham has been effectively cancelled for over a fortnight. Darren Share, the Assistant Director of Waste Management at Birmingham City Council, has formally instructed workers to mix the recycling and refuse together. This means that the many residents that responsibly separate their refuse from the recyclable materials are wasting their time (Momentum SB urges everybody to still try to recycle as best they can – we only have one earth!). It’s all being taken to landfill. This looks awful on Birmingham as a city, and provides no incentive for people to use the recycling wheelie bins. The longer-term effects of this decision could mean that residents who previously took time to separate household waste from recycling materials may no longer do so in the future. This has huge environmental consequences, and the problems this decision has created should be laid squarely at the door of the council and the bosses who have given these orders and taken these destructive decisions.

Private companies have been given the contracts to collect the refuse from all of the tower blocks in Birmingham. In this poor attempt to undermine the workers, Birmingham City Council has created a paradox for its own weak arguments. Whilst trying to save money in the refuse department, they have incurred the costs of paying these private firms. How much extra is this costing the council? How much does this contradict the argument for making three-hundred-thousand pounds of savings? Momentum SB are sure that the residents of Birmingham would be very interested to find out these figures. If Birmingham City council really want to save money, why doesn’t it scrap these plans to cut the poorest hardest, and have a look at the incredible wages of the directors and some council positions? There are numerous salary packets that exceed five-times the salary of a grade-three refuse worker. Surely if this is a cost-cutting exercise the council should be looking to redress that balance by cutting the wages for those who are earning extortionate amounts. Momentum SB welcomes any new proposals to save money by reducing the wages of those people who are earning five-times as much as the grade-three refuse workers, whose jobs we wish to defend.

If you think that the private agencies and scab labour are doing a good-enough job, take a look outside your house. Have your bins been collected? Have your neighbour’s bins been collected? Walk to the next street. Have those roads been cleared? Now, compare your findings with the claim from the council that the majority of bins have been collected and the streets have been cleared. Does it look like the council has adequately managed the effects of the industrial action? Or does it look like the workers are seriously winning this dispute?


Political establishment venom, usually reserved for the working-class, has interestingly been partially redirected to the very councillors who are making these decisions (Matthew Snape Birmingham councillors condemn council’s inaction over bin strikes)

Momentum South Birmingham urges the council, who meet on the 15th of August, to scrap their proposals that led to this strike. If they do not, then it is more likely that they will have to worry about their jobs than the workers on the picket line.

Joint the picket line outside the four Birmingham depots! Every day, Monday to Friday, at the following times:

0700-0800​  1030-1130​  1330-1430.

The fascinating candidacy of Sundip Meghani

A source close to me reports back on a very interesting and slightly arbitrarily-chaired Harborne ward selection meeting on Thursday the 3rd August (when are Labour Party meetings ever held in August for goodness sake?) – attended by a paltry 14 out of probably a couple of hundred of eligible members.

Of the five candidates available to choose from for the two-member ward only three attended – it transpires that the other two were not contacted before the meeting and as they don’t live in the ward would have had no idea when and where the meeting would be unless they had been told.

This is a touch odd, and does raise a question about the legitimacy of the meeting from the outset.  

There were two ‘successful’ candidates – Jayne Francis and Sundip Meghani.

Jayne won the women’s slot unopposed – well done to her. She is, we hear, a popular and well-respected local councillor, but it’s noteworthy that there were at least 4 women who had expressed an interest in the ward who have applied to be on the panel but not had an interview or approval yet – despite promises being made at Birmingham Board and NEC level that women applicants would be fast-tracked……… these promises appear not to have been kept.

Sundip, the other ‘successful’ candidate, is a very interesting chap indeed.

 

More tellingly, his ‘activity diary’ is intriguingly bereft of much……activity.

Pisstake2

pisstake

For the uninitiated – an ‘activity diary’ is something that would-be councillors in Birmingham have to produce when they apply to show that they have worked hard over the last couple of years in support of the party – in theory it should exclude shysters and reward hard-working activists. In theory being the operative words here.

Sundip appears to have been initially turned down, managed to reverse the decision just in time for the Harborne meeting and got on the panel with an activity diary far emptier than people who have been turned down…. for having undertaken insufficient activity.

A lack of activity in and of itself isn’t a reason to exclude him – if he’s a good candidate he’s a good candidate. But when so many other applicants have been blocked because of insufficient activity it does appear that there is a serious inconsistency.

And despite repeated written and verbal requests to the CLP chair for conformation that Sundip’s expression of interest in the ward was submitted in time no evidence of the email exists and the chair is refusing to confirm whether he has received an email that he should, as chair, have received:

“HARBORNE:   2 vacancies, at least one woman to be selected – expressions of interest to panel@birmingham-labour.org.uk and tomkeeley.labour@me.com by 5.00 p.m. on Tuesday 1 August 2017.”  

*Source: the Birmingham Labour website


The whole episode does raise rather a lot of questions for the leadership of Edgbaston CLP and the West Midlands Regional Office. A few answers would certainly be appreciated.  

MW

 

Holiday Hunger Fundraising Campaign

Ladywood Community Project

Over the summer months Momentum South Birmingham members have been organising collections to support the Ladywood Community Project. Here are some words by Gerardine Giblin the project’s coordinator:

“The project is situated in the community centre in the heart of a social housing estate. We have a garden, a cooker, a washing machine and a tumble dryer and these are regularly used by families.

We listen to parents and try to pick up on the things that they struggle with

The biggest disadvantage facing our children and their families today is poverty  For working families and those on benefits these are still difficult times and we know that the number of children living in poverty in this ward is 5078(45.2%) some 24% higher than the rest of the country. Therefore many of our initiatives are designed to ease the burden of low income and the consequences that poverty brings.

 84% of children in Ladywood receive free school meals during term time and during the long summer break families face increasing costs through using more food, gas and electricity, as well as the costs of updating school uniforms, stationery, books etc

 For the past three years we have operated a holiday hunger scheme. We work in partnership with Birmingham Central Foodbank to give 100 families a food hamper. We ask businesses to ask their staff to contribute food items towards this. We have had contributions from about 12 different agencies including banks, solicitors, universities and this year we have also asked for cash contributions so that we can put money on gas/electricity cards and keys.

The food hampers should feed a family for 3 days and we have put £20 on fuel cards for each family.

Families are referred from Support and social work teams, debt and money advisors and the local credit union as well as the families we engage with.

We also operate other low/no cost activities and this year we have raised money to take 72 residents to the seaside.”

If anyone wishes to get involved with fundraising or volunteer to help us please contact Gerardine Giblin on 0121 455 5070 or email me at gerardine.giblin@ladywoodcommunityproject.org.uk

 

Certificate of appreciation HH2017

 

“Where’s the councillors? Why aren’t the councillors here to discuss this with us?” 

Down at the picket line with the Birmingham refuse workers 

For the past few weeks the refuse workers in Birmingham have been in dispute with Birmingham City Council over proposed changes to pay-grades, terms and conditions, and levels of public safety. Workers from the Unite union are now beginning a third week of industrial action. I went down to Lifford Lane depot this morning to find out more about the dispute.
There were a large number of workers on the picket line this morning. I introduced myself, telling them that I was a Labour Party member, and that I wanted to find out more about the dispute, but through the workers themselves, and not just those who had the fortune of having their views published, often exclusively, by the local mainstream media. Immediately, one of the striking workers exclaimed, “Where’s the councillors? Why aren’t the councillors here to discuss this with us?” This was an issue that was raised time and again throughout the morning, and contributed to a genuinely angry atmosphere on the picket line. Workers were collectively angry that councillors did not seem to be engaging with them. Moreover, they felt like they were being ignored by the political class who distance themselves from the realities of real worker’s struggles and real working-class life.

Part of the dispute is about a pay and grade review, where previously agreed pay levels linked to skill grades are threatened by council proposals. One worker was disgusted with the language that has been used by councillors. “They call it ‘modernisation’ – we call it job cuts,” he said. “We’re out doing this job year on year, we’ve told the council how we need to modernise, how we need to improve efficiency. They ignore us, yet they have no experience of doing our jobs.” Some workers spoke of the inefficiency of the council’s long-standing policy of relying on agency staff – some who have been doing the job for over a decade – rather than take the workers on permanent contracts. “Hardly modern, is it? But they do not listen,” grumbled another disgruntled worker.

Workers complained at the attitude of the council. “They won’t come to the table,” they said. “They have their view of ‘modernisation’, and that’s it.” Another angry worker told me that the proposed changes will mean the scrapping or downgrading of the grade 3 post. This is a safety-critical post. It concerns the very workers who are trained and skilled to drive the vehicles. One only has to think of the size of the wagons that are used in the huge operation of moving Birmingham’s rubbish to imagine the carnage that could occur if cuts to safety are allowed.

And what for the future? If the council can alter conditions and get rid of previously agreed terms then what is stopping them doing it again in the future? Could councillors simply abolish grades, after, in the words of Unite regional officer, Lynne Shakespeare, “woefully inadequate consultation”?

Council attempts to redefine the job are another slap in the face for the workers. They stressed that the job hasn’t changed at all – people still need to have their rubbish collected – but the conditions have. Expectations of time had been put on workers, especially since the introduction of wheelie-bins, but the council had shown arrogant disregard with a one-size-fits-all policy. The view that there is no difference is removing refuse from a wheelie-bin from two completely different areas in two completely different houses is as ludicrous as it is ignorant. Add to this the policy of side-waste – waste that is left OUTSIDE of the bins, that workers are not contracted to take, but bosses have instructed them to collect – then the time constraints become even clearer. Furthermore there are special requests from residents, for example, some elderly residents who cannot physically move their wheelie-bin on to the pavement, so leave it at the top of their drive. Both the council and the workers want to get this waste collected, but it is seemingly only the workers who recognise that this takes more time.

The points made by the workers were plentiful and detailed. Previous projects that had wasted many times more than the predicted savings were to make, ignoring the cost-saving advice of the unions and not listening to the solutions offered by the workers, the false offer of equivalent employment, the privatisation of the vehicle mechanics and maintenance, the lack of assessment on a variety of health and safety issues and the failure to correctly survey properties were just a sample of the points that were made.

The workers were clear:

• These proposals will not improve the service, they will make it worse.

• If the workers don’t stand up for their jobs now, the council will move to make even deeper cuts in the future.

• People never noticed the refuge workers……..until they weren’t there.

South Birmingham Momentum sends its true solidarity to the Birmingham refuse workers and supports their action 100%. We DON’T want a city with a fourth-rate, underfunded refuse collection service. We DON’T want the safety of all of us to be jeopardised in the name of austerity. We DON’T want the council to attack Birmingham’s most valuable assets – those workers who I met today. If we want to reduce pay, perhaps we should start at the top, those in senior council positions with fat-cat salaries that are in excess of ten-times the amount of some of the workers I spoke to today.

We DO want to show our solidarity with the refuse workers. We can do this by attending the picket lines every day until we win this dispute. Workers will be on strike outside Lifford Lane depot every weekday morning between 6am and 8am and every weekday afternoon between 1230pm and 130pm. Members of the Labour Party can further show solidarity by passing resolutions at ward and constituency level that support the industrial action of the refuge workers and oppose the council proposals that amount to nothing more than an assault on the working-class of this great city, and a guarantee of a worse service.