Coventry council’s failure to address the low pay of its refuse collection drivers is set to lead to an escalation in strike action, after Unite, the UK’s leading union, announced a total of 19 new strike dates in the increasingly bitter bin dispute.


The 70 drivers are currently in the second day of a 48 hour walkout that began yesterday (5 January). The strike began after Coventry council informed Unite that it would not make an improved offer and that an offer which had previously been rejected by workers was no longer on the table, at last minute talks held on Tuesday 4 January.


Coventry council failure


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?"


Poverty pay


The dispute is a result of the council’s refusal to address the low pay of its refuse lorry drivers who have a basic starting salary of just £22,183 and are required to have a HGV licence. The council’s basic pay rates are far below what the highly skilled drivers could earn in similar roles.


The dispute has become increasingly bitter and rather than enter into meaningful negotiations Coventry council has opted to issue increasingly intemperate and widely inaccurate public statements.


Excessive hours


The council’s claims about the pay earned by the affected workers neglects to mention that workers are undertaking excessive hours of overtime, with working weeks well in excess of 50 hours standard. The long hours culture is affecting the workers’ physical and mental health as well as damaging family relationships.


Unite regional officer Simon O’Keeffe said: “The strikes will inevitably cause Coventry residents considerable disturbance but this dispute is entirely of the council’s own making.


“Rather than seek a negotiated settlement and ending low pay, the council seems more interested in sending out ever more bizarre communications which are simply rising tensions.


“It is inexplicable why Coventry council seems to believe it is a good thing that its workers are on such low pay rates that they are forced to work unsustainable and excessive hours in order to make ends meet.


“Unite remains willing to return to the negotiating table and resolve this dispute but Coventry council needs to put forward an improved offer on pay for talks to take place.”


Strike dates


In addition to the four days of strikes already announced from Tuesday 11 January to Friday 14 January. The workers will also take strike action on the following dates 19, 21, 26, 28 of January, 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18, 23, 25 February and 2, 4, 9, 11, 16, 18 and 23 of March.




Notes to editors:


Coventry bin strikes back on after council fails to lift low pay


During the coronavirus crisis Unite is working to keep workers and the public safe, to defend jobs and to protect incomes.


For media enquiries ONLY please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 07802 329235 or 0203 371 2067.


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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.