‘Our members deserve rate for the job’

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Unite GS Sharon Graham slams ‘incompetent’ Coventry council fat cats after bin driver picket line visit 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham has slammed ‘incompetent’ Coventry council fat cats who are among the highest paid local authority executives in the country, after visiting the city’s striking refuse drivers today (Thursday 3 March). 

Strikes began early this year and the 70 HGV drivers have been on all out strike since 31 January in the dispute over low pay. 

The workers’ basic rate of pay begins at just £22,183 per annum, which is far below what workers receive in the private sector and well below pay rates of neighbouring councils.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Coventry councillors have no problem when it comes to shelling out telephone number salaries for their top executives but when it comes to refuse drivers looking for a fair rate of pay, they won’t even attend negotiations. 

“As one of the highest paid local authority employees in the country, chief executive Martin Reeves is paid £191,036 a year. Meanwhile former deputy chief executive, Martin Yardley, was given more money than any member of council staff in the whole country during 2019/20. That year, Mr Yardley pocketed a total of £573,660 – £135,214 more than the nation’s second highest paid council executive while in 2018, the finance chief waltzed off with just shy of £450,000.

“The incompetence of Coventry council leaders and the greed of senior officers is simply staggering. They have lined their own pockets while wasting in the region of £3 million on a dispute that could be solved now for just £250,000.”

Sharon concluded, “Our members deserve the rate for the job and the people of Coventry deserve better.”

There is growing public anger about how the council’s elected leadership in the Labour-run authority have abdicated their responsibility for seeking a resolution to the dispute. Elected leaders have failed to attend any of the meetings invited to by Unite to discuss the workers’ side of the dispute and hear their point of view.

The strike is poised to continue into the summer as the striking HGV drivers prepare to re-ballot and renew the mandate for industrial action.

The ballot to renew strike action will open on Monday 7 March and closes on Monday 14 March.

As well as the issue of pay the drivers will also be balloted on the bullying and harassment they have suffered, longstanding concerns that the council has failed to address.

By Ryan Fletcher

Stay tuned to UNITElive for the latest on the Coventry bins story

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