‘Intensified’ Coventry bin strike to last until March

Crews will not collect waste in Coventry until the end of March after the trade union Unite announced this week that strikes were to “intensify”.

The dispute involves 70 refuse collection drivers, each of whom is a member of Unite and holds an HGV licence

Workers will now take ‘all-out’ strike action from Monday to Friday each week until 23 March, Unite says.

Coventry city council says this means there will be no collections for two months, affecting all residential and commercial operations.

Unite says it is escalating the action as “a direct result” of the council “refusing to enter into meaningful” talks and its “failure” to put forward a package to resolve the dispute over pay.

The strikes were initially due to end after four days of action on 14 January, but no agreement was reached.

The dispute involves 70 refuse collection drivers, each of whom is a member of Unite and holds an HGV licence.

The drivers began industrial action earlier this month after Coventry council refused to raise their pay rates (see letsrecycle.com story).

Unite claims the basic starting salary for the affected workers is £22,183, which it says is “far below” the average earnings of an HGV driver in the area.

The council claims it is “one of the highest paying local authorities in the West Midlands” for Class II HGV drivers, who drive the city’s refuse collection vehicles.

Negotiations

Coventry says ongoing negotiations since December had seen offers of a £3,500, tax-free offer to work the Christmas and New Year period and a £1,300 market supplement for drivers towards the bottom of their pay scale, backdated from April last year, rejected by the union.

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

The council also claims it is “limited” on what else it can offer the striking drivers, as it “must be rightly mindful of the duty it has” to all its 4,500-strong workforce and the possibility of future equal pay claims from other trade unions.

In a statement, Andrew Walster, director of Streetscene and regulatory services at Coventry city council, said he was “disappointed” by the news of further strikes.

He said: “We have made what we believe are very good offers in attempt to resolve the strike, so we are bitterly disappointed that the response has been to announce even more strike dates.

“While we respect the democratic right of the Unite members to strike, it is residents and businesses that are being impacted most by their action.”

‘Inaccuracies and misinformation’

Tit-for-tat exchanges and claims and counterclaims made by each of the parties involved have characterised the strike so far.

The council’s failure to negotiate has left Unite with no alternative but to escalate the strike action

  • Unite general secretary Sharon Graham

Unite says the council’s “reliance on inaccuracies and misinformation” about pay rates of the affected workers has “greatly increased tensions”.

As an example of the bitter division between the parties, Coventry city council claimed in its statement that Unite had rejected an appeal for one driver to be exempted from the strike to allow a crew to pick up waste from care homes “looking after some of the most vulnerable people in the city”.

In response, Unite told letsercycle.com that workers were “only striking for a few days a week, so the council could adjust deliveries to make sure they were collected from”.

In a statement of her own, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The council’s failure to negotiate has left Unite with no alternative but to escalate the strike action.

“All our members are seeking is a fair days pay for a fair days work and for their skills and abilities to be recognised and rewarded.”

Coventry

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.

Coventry’s waste collections are carried out in-house by the council.

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