Coventry bin drivers to strike over T&Cs attacks

Attacks attempt to drive down pay and conditions through levelling down agenda

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HGV refuse lorry drivers employed by Coventry council have voted for strike action over proposed attacks on their terms and conditions, Unite said on Friday (July 28).

More than 40 drivers are angry at the Labour council’s plans to end ‘task and finish’ and to possibly privatise the city’s refuse service. The plans are an attempt to drive down pay and conditions as it fights equal pay claims by GMB members.

Rather than address low and unequal pay in other areas by raising pay and conditions to the level won by refuse workers, the Labour-run council is attempting to deal with GMB legal claims by bringing conditions of refuse workers down. Unite members are determined to ensure that equalities and equal pay mean better conditions for more and more workers – not equal misery for all.

It is understood that the council’s cabinet will meet on Monday (July 31) to decide which course of action it will take. A decision on specific dates for the strikes, which are also over pay issues, will be taken in the near future.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Task and finish has been the norm for decades. It is an industry standard provision that helps make a dirty heavy smelly job more bearable. The council’s plans to scrap it are not just an attack on refuse workers but an attack on all its workers as it tries to equalise conditions downwards. Under these plans refuse workers will see cuts while those on even poorer pay and conditions will see no lasting benefit. The continuing cost of living crisis means that bills remain sky high and housing costs are hit with interest rate rises – it is appalling that the council response is this race to the bottom.

“Attacking terms and conditions and privatising services should not be in the Labour party playbook and councillors need to be reminding Coventry council’s leadership of that. The council should be levelling up not levelling down. Unite stands ready to defend our Coventry refuse members to the hilt.”

During the first half of 2022, Coventry’s HGV refuse lorry drivers went on strike for six months to secure a reasonable pay rise. The council unsuccessfully spent £9.4 million trying to break the strike – an amount that dwarfed the costs of actually settling the pay claim – and was heavily criticised by Unite.

Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said, “Once again, Coventry is behaving like a Labour council in name only with this naked attempt to drive down wages and working conditions. Levelling down on pay and conditions is a completely unacceptable response to the cost of living crisis.

“It is concerning that the council’s leadership seems to be reprising the hard headedness that led to such vast sums of taxpayers’ money being wasted in 2022. Its arguments about cost savings are moot when it was prepared to squander millions upon millions of pounds to deny a small group of workers a fair pay rise.

“Unite is more than willing to sit down with the council to discuss alternative arrangements but these plans need to be taken off the table.”

By Ryan Fletcher