Coventry erects ‘pop-up’ disposal sites ahead of strike

Coventry city council has erected four ‘pop-up’ waste disposal sites across the city as it prepares for refuse crews to strike from tomorrow (5 January).

The dispute between Coventry city council and Unite relates to pay and Christmas working (picture: Shutterstock)

The trade union Unite is set to begin a 48-hour strike due to a dispute over pay and Christmas working, while there will be a further four days of strike action from 11 to 14 January.

Unite claims Coventry is unwilling to increase the pay of its in-house refuse collection drivers, which the trade union says stands at £22,183 per year.

The council says workers rejected “generous offers” to address 52-week working that focused around collections during the week between Christmas and New Year and additional pay.

No agreement was reached before Christmas.

With no household waste collections to take place, the four drop-off points to which residents can take securely bagged non-bulky waste across the city have been open from 8am to 4.30pm since 29 December.

Talks between Coventry and Unite began again today in a continued attempt to resolve the issues raised.

‘Poverty pay rates’

Unite says refuse collection drivers’ “poverty pay rates” are in sharp contrast to the “highly lucrative” earnings of Coventry city council’s chief executive, Martin Reeves. The trade union claims Mr Reeves earns £191,036 a year.

Instead of a willingness to find a way, it’s been total intransigence from the council

– Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary

Unite also says the council is trying to make “last minute” changes to the refuse workers’ contracts, via a buy-out option that would make working over the Christmas period compulsory.

And, Unite claims feelings among the workforce have been further heightened due to several of the ruling Labour group on Coventry city council issuing “highly unhelpful” posts on social media about the dispute.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said in a statement: “You might expect a Labour council to be sympathetic to the low-pay plight of its bin drivers.

“But instead of a willingness to find a way, it’s been total intransigence from the council, combined with social media tirades against their own workers.”

‘Limits’

Coventry city council says it can prove it is one of the highest paying authorities in the region for Class II HGV drivers.

It also says there are “limits” to what it can offer as part of negotiation as it is “mindful of the duty we have to all of our 4,500-strong workforce” and the possibility of future equal pay claims.

Representing an estimated population of more than 430,000, Coventry city council had a household waste recycling rate of 34% in the 2020/21 financial year.

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