Why are the bin lorry drivers on strike?

The union Unite successfully balloted drivers in December last year on two issue – working over the Christmas period and a failure to pay a Grade 6 in wages (they are currently paid a Grade 5). They then balloted again in March 2022, again on two issues. This time it was a failure to pay a market supplement and allegations of bullying in the workplace. 

What are they paid?

Bin lorry drivers in Coventry are paid for a four-day week which is carried out on a task-and-finish basis – which means they can go home as soon as the job is completed. 

The fact they are paid for a four-day week, when many others across the country work five, means the fairest way to compare salaries is to work out the hourly wage. In Coventry, the hourly wage for bin drivers is between £11.50 and £14.38 depending on where drivers are on their pay grade. 

This makes us one of the highest paying in the West Midlands when comparing pay for bin lorry drivers. Further evidence for this can be seen by the recently celebrated Eastbourne deal for bin drivers where unions agreed a new flat rate of £12.50 per hour for all drivers, rising to £13.50 per hour in April 2023.

One of the offers made by the Council to resolve the ongoing strike was to increase the pay of drivers at the bottom-end of the grade, so that no driver started on less than £12.45 per hour – an increase from the original bottom of the scale of £11.50.

Because of overtime, drivers can earn a lot more than what they are paid contractually. In the last 12 months, with overtime, the lowest amount a driver took home was £25,736.59, with the highest amount £52,515.34.

Without overtime, and based solely on contractual pay, the lowest amount was £25,255.26 and the highest was £35,967.32. All of these figures are based on drivers who had been working for more than 12 months or were not on reduced pay due to sick leave.

A full list of the salaries, with names redacted, is available.

Should the drivers be paid a Grade 6?

Coventry City Council has always said it would pay a Grade 6 if the evidence suggested it should. The Council, which employs about 4,500 people, and all trade unions have signed-up to a national process which determines pay gradings.

When asked last year, the Council looked at this, but the process came out at Grade 5. The union Unite appealed this decision and an this was reviewed independently by West Midlands Employers. The decision was once again a Grade 5.

In an attempt to resolve the situation, both the Council and Unite agreed to be bound by the outcome of a further appeal by the independent arbitrary service ACAS. The decision was the posts should remain in Grade 5.

Paying additional money to a male dominated workforce without the evidence to support it, would be unfair on the other employees the Council employs and would quite rightly lead to equal pay claims – that could cost the Council anything up to an additional £30 million a year.

Should the Council pay a market supplement?

Again, if the evidence suggested a market supplement was needed, the Council has agreed it would pay one. A market supplement is often paid when there are retention or recruitment issues. This has not been the case in Coventry so far.

This can be evidenced by the fact that the Council has successfully recruited 15 drivers in the last 12 months without a problem. However, in an attempt to resolve the situation, an offer was made to pay a supplement only to those at the bottom of the Grade 5 pay-scale. This offer was rejected by Unite.

How do pay-scales relate to other local authorities?

When comparing the hourly rate we pay, the evidence shows that Coventry is one of the highest paying in the West Midlands for bin lorry drivers.

What offers have been made to resolve the dispute?

The Council is genuine when says it is committed to do all it can to lawfully resolve the ongoing dispute.

The following four offers have been made and remain on the table: 

  1. That no driver will earn less than £26,992 which does not include the forthcoming 1.75% national pay rise
  2. A £4,000 tax-free payment to all staff to buy out existing working arrangements including Christmas working and the collection of side waste
  3. A commitment to train 20 collectors in waste services staff to be HGV drivers
  4. If we were to have turnover of 15% with our drivers, a retention payment of £500 will be paid to all remaining drivers

How are you able to use other drivers while your drivers are taking part in industrial action?

The law states that you cannot use agency workers to break legitimate strike action. It does not prevent the temporary outsourcing of the affected business function to a third-party contractor. This is what the Council is doing with regards to the drivers supplied by Tom White Waste. Remember, the collectors are the Council’s own employees who are not on strike.

How much is it costing council taxpayers to fund the collections with other drivers?

The total cost of the strike to the Council so far is £1.8m. Around £1.2m of that though is a loss of income in the commercial waste service that the strike has caused. The cost of the mitigation measures is £600k, such as the drop-off sites. 

Is using TWW strike-busting and therefore illegal?

No. The temporary outsourcing of the affected business function to a third-party contractor is permitted within the law.

When will garden waste collections resume?

Understandably, our focus was resuming a household waste collection service and then a recycling one. We are expecting garden waste collections to start from Tuesday 19th April. This means those expecting a recycling collection that week, will receive a garden waste collection as well. Those expecting a household waste collection that week will receive a garden waste collection on the w/b 26 April. To find out what collection you are expecting, visit www.coventry.gov.uk/bindays.

What should I do if one of my bins isn’t emptied on its scheduled day?

If we miss your collection on your designated day, please leave your bin out as we normally return to those we have missed the following day.

Has the driver-strike led to an increase in fly-tipping?

This is hard to answer with 100% certainty. Although it is true that fly-tipping rates have risen across the city over the last year, it does not necessarily follow it is directly linked to the bin lorry driver strike. Unfortunately, fly-tipping rates have risen across the country and nearly all of these areas have not had a bin lorry driver strike.

How do I report fly-tipping?

Either visit www.coventry.gov.uk/street-scene/flytipping or telephone 08085 834333. Calls are charged at local rates.

When are the drop sites open?

The drop-sites have proved to be hugely popular with more than 1,000,000 visits so far. However, with all three (household, recycling and garden waste) collection services being delivered once again, the demand for these sites are dropping. The below sites are open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, 8am-4.30pm:

  • Sowe Common car park
  • Leicester Row car park
  • Wellington Street car park
  • Coventry Community Resource Centre
  • Willenhall Social Club car park
  • Telfer Road car park
  • Wyken Slough (Saturday and Sunday only)

Hearsall Common, which has been one of the busiest drop sites, remains open seven days a week.

With regular collection services now being delivered, it is expected that all drop sites will close permanently on 16 May as this is when the operating licences granted by the Environment Agency to operate them expire.

Freedom of Information requests

The City Council has received a number of Freedom of Information Requests relating to the industrial action. The Council’s responses are published on the Council’s disclosure log and links to them are available below: