'Time to pay the rate for the job'

Unite demolishes Coventry council claims about refuse drivers’ pay

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Unite has demolished Coventry council’s claims that its refuse drivers are paid the same as others in the region. The union reveals today (February 22) that workers doing the same job in neighbouring councils are paid at least £5,500 more than the striking drivers receive.

Coventry council has claimed repeatedly that its rates for refuse collection drivers are above or in line with what other local authorities in the region pay. And, in an extraordinary move last week, council leader George Duggan also claimed that to pay the drivers appropriately for their skills could trigger equal pay claims by other council employees.

However, Unite has learnt the starting rate for refuse collection drivers in Birmingham is over £5,500 above the £22,183 per annum that Coventry drivers earn, a rate that has not triggered equal pay claims.

In nearby Dudley, some refuse collection drivers start on £28,673, nearly £6,500 more than Coventry council currently pays. Unite also found that private refuse collection providers in the region have pay rates generally well above the Coventry’s rates.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “These figures demolish Coventry council’s claims that they are paying the rate. It is abundantly clear that they are not. It is time to pay the rate for the job.

“Patience with this council, a Labour council let’s not forget, is wearing very thin. They’ve spent nearly £3 million to avoid paying low paid workers a fair wage, including £300,000 to a refuse firm owned by the council and yet councillors have failed to attend a single minute of the negotiations with Unite,” she added. “Set against the £250,000 it would cost to end this dispute, this is a ridiculous position and a total waste of local council taxpayers’ money.

“Unite’s members at Coventry council have our full support and this will be further stepped up until this dispute is resolved to the satisfaction of this workforce.”

The 70 drivers have been on all out strike since January 31 and the strikes will continue to at least Wednesday, March 23 unless a settlement is reached.

Last week Unite exposed the fact that despite the dispute causing widespread distress and disruption to all Coventry residents, no elected councillor has attended any of the 25 hours of negotiations so far held to try to resolve the dispute.

Unite regional officer Simon O’Keeffe said, “The cost of paying the drivers a fair day’s pay is a drop in the ocean compared to what Coventry council has already spent on the dispute.

“Coventry council’s conduct throughout this dispute has been atrocious and its campaign of misinformation to undermine the workers will not be forgotten in a hurry. The council must mend its battered reputation by putting forward a fair pay offer to finally resolve the dispute which is in the best interests of residents and workers.”

By Barckley Sumner

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