COVENTRY’S bin strike has escalated with Unite announcing 19 new days of industrial action.
The 70 bin lorry drivers are currently taking part in their second day of a 48-hour strike after the union and its representatives deemed the city council’s offer as not good enough.
Unite claims the council failed to put up an improved offer and withdrew a previous offer.
The next strike dates – already organised – are due to take place between Tuesday and Friday, January 11 to 14.
Unite has now announced – without a resolution – further strike days will be held on January 18, 21, 26 and 28. followed by February 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23 and 25 and Mardh 2, 5, 9, 11, 16, 19 and 23.
The dispute has grown even more bitter this week with a war of words between the council and the union.
Unite claims bin lorry drivers have a basic starting salary of just £22,183 and are required to have a HGV licence. It added the council’s basic pay rates were far below what the highly skilled drivers could earn in similar roles.
In response, Coventry City Council responded to Unite’s claims saying ‘not one driver earned as little as £22,183 a year – we pay them, we know’.
The authority said the over the last 12 months the lowest paid driver took home £28,148, with the highest earner receiving £52,163.
The council added: “As a responsible employer we take exception to Unite’s claim that we pay our drivers ‘poverty pay rates’.
“The facts are that the average pay a bin lorry driver received over the last 12 months was £34,143. You decide if that’s poverty pay.”
And the authority claimed the postponing of the strikes over Christmas ‘was not good faith to allow further talks’, it was because ‘it was informed by Unite’s Regional Officer they had failed to follow due process meaning the strike before Christmas was to be called off, but the January strikes remained’.
The council said it previously remained silent on that but opted to speak out as ‘Unite was trying to rewrite history to win public favour’.
“Unite seem justifiably proud of the “12.5 per cent pay uplift, worth about £3,000 a year” deal they have negotiated for bin lorry drivers in Plymouth and encourage Coventry to do the same.
“But the deal they have achieved means Plymouth drivers now have the potential to earn at the top of the grade about £29,500 a year. As already stated, the average earnings of a bin lorry driver in Coventry in the last 12 months was £34,143.”
The council concluded by denying it had a ‘driver retention problem’, adding that was only true of organisations employing Class I HGV drivers.
“lass I drivers drive the articulated lorries that are so essential to guaranteeing supplies across the country from food to petrol.
“But Coventry City Council does not employ any Class I drivers. Our bin lorry drivers are Class II HGV drivers. Nationally, Class II drivers earn less than Class I.
“Recruitment and retention are thankfully issues we do not face.
“We have lost 14 Class II HGV drivers in the last three years but only three because of pay or conditions.
“We have also added an additional four crews into our service in the last six months meaning we have successfully recruited an additional 20 employees without any problem.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite members at Coventry council have been forced to escalate their industrial action due to the council’s total failure to enter into meaningful negotiations.
“Unite is entirely dedicated to protecting the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and will give the workers in Coventry the union’s full support in this dispute with what is supposed to be a Labour council.
“It should be joining with the union to fight the scourge of poverty pay and ending the need to work excessive hours to make ends meet. Other councils have done just that. How come Coventry is so intransigent?”
Council’s drop-off points for residents to take their rubbish to
Coventry City Council now has six drop-off points for residents to take their rubbish to.
They are open seven-days-a-week from 8.30am to 4.30pm.
The two latest ones – at Wyken Slough and Leicester Row car park – opened today
Four other sites have already been open across the city – at Hearsall Common (off Beechwood Avenue), Sowe Common car park, War Memorial (main) car park and Cheylesmore car park (off New Union Street)