Warrington council loses High Court case against bin worker strikes

Warrington Council has lost its High Court attempt to block industrial action by its refuse drivers.

The council’s case was that the workers’ strike action was unlawful as the dispute was no longer about pay. The council tried to use the extra hurdles placed in the way of legitimate strike action by the Conservative's Trade Union Act of 2016.

The High Court ruling however confirmed that there was an “industrial reality” and the union had not, in seeking to find alternative and innovative ways to settle the dispute, breached the law.

This means that the council workers who have been in dispute for many months have the right to continue their struggle to secure a fair pay settlement from their employer.

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “The fact that Warrington Council lodged this legal challenge, which sought to take advantage of an anti-trade union law that should go against everything Labour stands for, is a disgrace. It was also a massive waste of taxpayers’ money.

“The ‘industrial reality’ is that there is only one way to settle this dispute and that is for Warrington council to get back into negotiations and put forward a reasonable offer. Warrington refuse workers have their unions absolute backing as they strike for a fair pay rise.”

Rachel Halliday, a partner and member of the specialist Trade Union Law Group at law firm Thompsons Solicitors, who acted for Unite, said: “The judge rightly recognised the industrial reality that those involved in negotiations to resolve a trade dispute may well need to look for new and creative solutions to move beyond an impasse.

“This is a helpful judgment for trade unions in that it makes it clear that the requirement contained in the Trade Union Act 2016, to provide a summary of the trade dispute in the ballot paper means a summary and not a list of every conceivable issue which might arise during the course of negotiations.”

The 70 plus workers say the national pay offer of a flat rate increase of £1,925 is not good enough. The offer is below the rate of inflation and amounts to a real terms pay cut. 

The workers have been on strike for 53 days, with fresh strikes now taking place from 5 December to 24 December. Further industrial action will be scheduled if the dispute is not resolved.

Unite regional officer, Brian Troake, said: “Unite and our members have been vindicated in the High Court and Warrington council’s actions have only made things worse. The council needs to stop wasting time and money and get back into talks so we can find a resolution.”