Birmingham bin workers ‘have been clocking off early for three years’

Workers have allegedly benefitted from a 'task and finish' arrangement that was introduced during the pandemic.

Piles of rubbish in Medley Road, Tyseley, Birmingham during the bin men's strike.
Birmingham bin workers have allegedly benefited from a 'task and finish' arrangement. (PA)

Birmingham bin workers have allegedly been allowed to clock off early while still getting paid in full, an investigation has revealed.

Workers have been benefiting from a 'task and finish' arrangement that was introduced as an emergency measure during the COVID-19 pandemic in the city's four bin depots, it has been alleged.

The practice was brought in three years ago to protect crews from catching the virus, encouraging them to go home when their rounds were completed.

But it has carried on ever since, with the council's knowledge, it has been claimed by multiple sources in an investigation by BirminghamLive.

Read more: 'Furious' residents film refuse workers tip separate recycling waste into the same bin

Birmingham Bin men and agency staff working to rule during the Council dispute. They are pictured on the Coventry Road in Hay Mills, Birmingham.
Council bosses have now told bin workers the practice must stop. (PA)

Council bosses have now told bin workers the practice must stop in a message issued to depots last week, according to the report.

The arrangement is implicated in massive equal pay claims, totalling an estimated £760 million.

Any work arrangements that result in some workers getting a higher rate of pay per hour than others doing a comparable grade job is potentially discriminatory.

Council leader Cllr John Cotton denied knowing the practice was happening and claimed he was specifically told it was not by officers.

But one Labour councillor, on condition of anonymity, defended the practice, saying bin workers who left early “were carrying out work tasks at home”.

When asked what these tasks typically included for a bin loader or driver, they said it included health and safety training and other online learning.

Read more: ‘Absolutely stinks’: Beachgoer's disgust as sewage filmed pouring into sea

Birmingham City Council House in Birmingham, England, Headquarters of the Birmingham City Council. Houses council officers, including the Chief Executive in a neo-classical style building in Victoria Square, Birmingham built in 1879 (Photo by: Universal H
A judge-led inquiry into equal pay issues will investigate how Birmingham City Council. (Getty)

Waste service workers, union officials and city council insiders have all confirmed the practice was continued beyond the pandemic as it was seen as a way to incentivise the workforce in the bins service.

It is understood that the parks maintenance service has also been working to a similar regime.

Workers are often completing their assigned tasks inside the 7 hour, 15 minute shift they are paid for, according to the report.

Refuse collectors, who spoke anonymously, said some workers headed off to second jobs, carried out caring duties, or relaxed after completing their work.

They added that not all workers and managers had approved of or carried out the early finish practice.

A union source defended the bin workers, saying: “Bin men have not been sneaking off home early or doing anything wrong - this is a council approved working practice.”

Birmingham Conservatives group leader Cllr Robert Alden has accused the council of “gross negligence” over the practice.

A judge-led inquiry into equal pay issues will investigate how Birmingham City Council allowed potentially discriminatory pay practices to persist, despite huge warnings.

A separate governance review about how the council's financial troubles have arisen is also underway.

In a statement, a Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The council has been open about the current potential equal pay liability that the organisation faces, and as there is ongoing litigation relating to this issue we cannot comment further at this time.

“We are working to resolve our historic equal pay liabilities and undertake a job evaluation scheme that ensures that the council faces no further liabilities in the future.”

An internal report leaked last year into the bins service found that Birmingham's bins service was letting down residents, with 'unreliable' crews regularly missing out whole streets.