BIN LORRY drivers – who are members of Unite – have declared an ‘all-out strike’ claiming the council has failed to make an offer to meet the union’s pay rise demands.
It means that from Monday, January 31, workers will be on strike all week every week until March 23 and, they add, there is already an overtime ban in place.
The dispute involves 70 refuse collection drivers who began industrial action last month.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Coventry council has had every opportunity to resolve this dispute through negotiations, yet they have still failed to table any offer to resolve the industrial action. 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.
“Unite always defends the job, pay and conditions of its members and the Coventry bin drivers will receive the union’s full support until this dispute is resolved.”
Unite says it is escalating the action as a direct result of the council still refusing to enter into meaningful talks and its failure to put forward a package to resolve the dispute over pay.
It adds the starting salary for the affected workers is jut £22,183 which was far below the average earnings of an HGV driver in the area. Unite has been seeking to resolve the issue around pay for over a year without success.
Unite regional officer Simon O’Keeffe said: “The escalation of the strike action will inevitably cause disruption to the lives of Coventry residents.
“This dispute is entirely of the council’s own making. Even at this stage further bin strikes can be avoided if the council was prepared to put a reasonable offer on the table.”
The council said the escalation meant there would be no collections for two months and it would affecting all residential and commercial operations.
The city council appealed to Unite last week to make one driver exempt from the strike so there could be one crew available to pick up waste from care homes in the city – where some of the most vulnerable citizens lived – but it added the union rejected that request.
The council added ongoing negotiations since then 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 – both were rejected by the union.
Coventry City Council added it was already one of the highest paying local authorities in the West Midlands for Class II HGV drivers, who drove the city’s bin lorries.
It added it was limited on to what else it could offer as it needed to be rightly mindful of the duty it had to all of its 4,500-strong workforce and the possibility of future equal pay claims from other trade unions.
The city council previously said it ‘took exception to Unites claims’ adding: ‘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 and the average pay for a Coventry City Council bin lorry driver over the past 12 months was £34,143.
Andrew Walster, Director, Streetscene and Regulatory Services at Coventry City Council, is disappointed by the latest development.
He said: “We remain committed to continuing to work with Unite to resolve this situation and have done everything asked of us during the negotiations so far.
“Today’s announcement has also come 24 hours ahead of further planned talks tomorrow at which we hope to move things forward positively, so the timing of this escalation of strike action is both surprising and upsetting.
“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.
“We have had great support from local people, and we know many have helped friends, family and neighbours to get rid of excess waste. We will do all we can to resolve this situation – but it looks as if it might get worse before it gets better so I would like to thank everyone for their patience and support over the next few weeks.”
Three more waste drop-off points now open
Today’s news came as two more waste drop-off points opened and a third one opened on Saturday.
The sites are off Wellington Street, the Coventry Community Resource Centre off Aintree Close, and the Tom White Waste site, off Judds Lane, increasing the spread of sites across the city so people can get to them easier.
The Tom White Waste site off Judds Lane opened on Saturday and will be available between midday and 4pm Monday to Friday and from 10am to 4pm at weekends.
The sites at Wellington Street and the Coventry Community Resource Centre have opened today and, like the existing six, will be open between 8am and 4.30pm seven days-a-week.
There are no height restriction barriers on the three new sites.
The other six sites in Coventry are at Wyken Slough, Leicester Row car park Hearsall Common (off Beechwood Avenue), Sowe Common car park, War Memorial (main) car park and Cheylesmore car park (off New Union Street)
So far, more than 80,000 cars have visited the six drop sites and more than 292,000 black bags have been dropped off.
A full list of the drop sites can be found at www.coventry.gov.uk/dropsites
Fortnightly collections started today
Green-lidded household waste bin collections every other week started today. With the current situation as it is, those plans will now only be possible until the end of the month.
Residents who usually have a collection on a Wednesday will have a collection on Tuesday and residents who usually have a collection on a Friday will have their collections on Thursdays.
Collections of household waste for people who have a collection on Tuesdays and Thursdays will go ahead as normal.
Residents can double check their collection dates at www.coventry.gov.uk/bindays
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