Once again, Coventry City Council is forced to correct blatant inaccuracies published by the union Unite following yesterday’s disappointing announcement regarding an extension to the strike action they have organised.

While we do not want to get into a public war of words, failing to challenge the falsehoods they are continuing to present runs the risk of people being misled.

The points of clarification are:

  • Councillors do not suspend members of staff and such a statement would invalidate any petition that may come to the City Council
  • Suspension of staff will be subject to due process and is irrespective of their status within the Council
  • Councillors do not get involved in negotiations on pay and conditions. The Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000 prevents Cabinet Members negotiating employees terms and conditions of employment. Councillors set policy direction and with the refuse service, the policy is to ensure a reliable, high quality service, and one that our residents can feel proud of
  • Senior elected members have met with local and regional Unite representatives on two occasions. To claim otherwise is simply untrue and members would be happy to meet again
  • The regrading request for a pay increase to Grade 6 has been considered internally by Coventry City Council, appealed externally to West Midlands Employers and finally judged by independent arbitration service ACAS – a process accepted by Unite but now deemed to be a farce
  • The ACAS finding also justifies the Council decision not to agree to a Grade 6 request without due process as it would have led to equal pay claims of around £8m rising to £30m a year which Unite has never been prepared to recognise – even though other unions understood our position
  • There are no grounds for a market supplement as we have no retention or recruitment issues
  • Coventry bin lorry drivers are one of the highest paid in the WM region. We have also written to Unite to offer the General Secretary’s lauded Plymouth deal but have heard nothing back
  • The Council has not engaged in strike-breaking, it has simply sought to provide a statutory service that otherwise would have caused considerable public health issues. Our mitigation measures such as the collections now in place and the drop-sites off have been well-used by people including those on the picket lines
  • The cost of the strike so far to the Council is £1.8m – but £1.2m of that is loss of income the strike has caused. The cost of the mitigation measures is £600k
  • We do not union-bash which can be seen by the fact we have one of the most generous facility times for unions compared to other local authorities, but what we will do is correct inaccuracies
  • We call on Unite to end this strike so our bin lorry drivers can return to work and our residents once again receive the service they deserve
  • We have sought ways of effectively resolving the issue and the following four offers remains on the table:
    1. That no driver will earn less than £26,992 which does not include the forthcoming 1.75% national pay rise, even though Unite continue to quote the £22,183 figure.
    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 a turnover of 15% of our drivers, a retention payment of £500 will be paid to all remaining drivers.

Published: Wednesday, 16th March 2022