THE COVENTRY bin lorry driver strike which has gone on for six months has now ended after a deal was struck between the Unite union and the city council.
Industrial action began in January when around 80 drivers, backed by the union, claimed they were not being paid enough for the job they did.
But ACAS stated the employees’ Grade 5 salaries for the job they did was the correct level and – looking at the process that came to the original decision – said it found it had been ‘undertaken in a fair and open manner’.
The workers persisted with the strike and now a deal has been reached with Unite saying the drivers have received a pay rise up to 12.9 per cent, worth an estimated £3,600-per-year.
The union added the deal also included Christmas bonuses worth around £4,000 were included and disciplinary charged against Unite shop steward Pete Randle had been dropped.
Coventry City Council expressed its frustration at the amount of time it took to agree the deal saying ‘core elements of the agreement were on the table before the drivers even balloted on strike action’.
“This unnecessary delay has meant the council has had to deal with a net cost pressure of more than £4million, through a mixture of paying for mitigation measures to ensure Coventry residents continued to receive waste collection services and a substantial loss in commercial waste income.
“During the last seven months of the strike, it has at times felt like more than an employment dispute.
“Council officers trying to deliver public services and elected members – particularly in the run-up to the May elections – were targeted through coordinated and misleading attacks made through a supposed community activist group that received Unite funding.
“However, today’s agreement – which does not include bin lorry drivers’ pay rising to Grade 6 which was one of the initial strike demands – brings Unite’s strike action to an end.”
It added the deal had also been approved by the GMB and Unison which were keen to ensure there had been no breach of equal pay laws that could affect their members.
The council said that was a real risk from Unite’s initial demands which could have cost the authority up to £30million each year in claims.
The bin lorry drivers have been on strike since the turn of the year, but residents have been receiving waste services as normal for much of that time.
Mitigation measures such as waste drop-off points and sub-contracting out the striking part of the statutory service meant Coventry did not suffer the fate of significant rubbish build-ups like other cities where strike action has taken place.
“Coventry City Council would like to place on record its thanks to the bin collectors and other staff in waste services who continued to work hard for the city throughout the long-running dispute.”
Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “This continuous action has delivered real terms pay increases for our members.
“It is quite frankly wrong that our members were forced to take this action against a Labour council, but Unite will always back its members against any employer who refuses to negotiate.
“I am very proud of our reps and members today.”