Refuse collection drivers employed by Coventry council are to be balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay and Christmas working arrangements.

If the 70 plus workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, vote for industrial action then stoppages could begin before Christmas.

Council should be ashamed

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Coventry council should be thoroughly ashamed of its actions. Our members have continued to work throughout the pandemic providing a vital service to the residents of the city.

“Rather than appreciating their dedication and commitment the council appears determined to leave them languishing on poverty wages, which are far below market rates.

“Unite always puts the jobs, pay and conditions of its members front and centre and will be giving our members in this dispute its total support until these matters are resolved.”

The dispute is a result of the council failing to improve the pay rates for its refuse collection drivers who must hold an HGV licence. The drivers are paid as little as £22,000 per annum. Given the ongoing lorry driver shortage, they could earn far more elsewhere.

Unlike many other councils that have increased pay or introduced retention payments to ensure that refuse collections are maintained, Coventry has instead stuck rigidly to a fundamentally flawed pay formula.

Additionally the council is trying to force through last minute changes to the workers’ contracts regarding Christmas working arrangements, which are to the detriment of workers.

Tensions heightened 

Tensions in the dispute have been greatly heightened as a result of the council issuing a highly misleading and unnecessary statement this week about the dispute.

The ballot for industrial action opens this Friday (26 November) and closes on Monday 6 December.

Unite regional officer Simon O’Keeffe said: “Rather than enter into negotiations to resolve this dispute the council has instead issued a statement warning residents of impending disruption, even before Unite’s industrial action ballot, let alone any potential strike action had even began.

“Rather than frightening residents and increasing tensions in the dispute the council should be returning to negotiations with serious proposals to resolve these matters.”


Notes to editors:

  • During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.
  • For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.
  • Unite is the UK and Ireland’s leading union fighting to protect and advance jobs, pay and conditions for members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Sharon Graham.