RESIDENTS could face ‘huge disruption’ to their bin collections in the run up to Christmas and in the new year – that’s the warning from union bosses which has urged the city council to resolve its dispute with refuse staff.
Unite says after a 90 per cent turn-out of more than 70 of its members who work as bin lorry drivers, 98.5 per cent voted in favour of striking.
The union says its members are unhappy about pay rates and Christmas working arrangements.
They voted on whether to hold four days of strike action between December 21 and Christmas Eve, two more days starting on January 5 and a further four-day strike between January 11 and 14.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “A 98 per cent vote in favour of industrial action shows the bin lorry drivers are fed up with low rates of pay.
“Especially when they see what they could earn elsewhere nowadays.
“The council can resolve this dispute if it wants to – it is not of our making.”
The union added the affected workers – refuse collection drivers – need an HGV licence and claims, despite a current severe shortage of qualified employees, the salary of £22,000-per-year is too low.
It claimed the city council was refusing to increase pay rates, in contrast to other local authorities keen to retain their refuse collection drivers which had raised salaries to prevent their workforce from being poached by other potential employers.
Unite has accused the council of ‘attempting to force through last minute changes to employees’ Christmas working arrangements’.
Unite regional officer Simon O’Keefe said strikes would result in huge disruption over the festive season, leaving bins being unemptied and urged the council to ‘return to the negotiating table with acceptable offers on pay and Christmas working’.
Coventry City Council said it was disappointed to see Unite members working as bin lorry drivers had voted for strike action, claiming the authority had worked very hard to avoid this, holding frequent talks with the union to address the two areas of concern.
“In those talks, we have made a number of generous and sensible offers in an attempt to resolve the matter.
“We have also explained that as all local authorities, we are bound by strict and nationally agreed processes in evaluating salaries for jobs.
“We have to be fair to all our workforce and we cannot make exceptions.
“We know that our residents expect a waste collection service 52 weeks a year and we believe, like other vital council services, collections should continue over the festive period.
“Despite the outcome of the ballot, we are committed to continue talking to Unite in an attempt to find a solution.
“We want to lawfully resolve these issues, maintain the service and avoid disruption at this busy time of year – for the good of the city, our residents and our workforce.
“Work has already started on ways to try and minimise the inevitable disruption residents will face as a result of this industrial action.
“We will share these plans with residents as soon as we are aware of the future strike dates.”
On pay, the council said although the bottom of grade 5 for a bin driver was £22,183, it did not take account of contracted overtime and most drivers received a salary between £24,871 and £31,104.
The council added it first raised the issue of Christmas working with Unite in January this year.
“Just as we have been since negotiations first started, we remain committed to open dialogue with the union to resolve the issues raised.
“However, with regards to additional pay, we – like all local authorities – are bound by strict processes in evaluating salaries for jobs.
“We cannot make change to pay unless the evaluation process supports this or we provide preferential treatment and this would not be fair to the other 4,500 people we employ as an organisation.”