Unite wins of the year - Mid Ulster and Coventry council workers

On the eighth day of Christmas, UniteLive looks back at huge wins at Mid Ulster and Coventry councils

Reading time: 5 min

2022 has been the year of Unite wins – under general secretary Sharon Graham, Unite has had more victories in the workplace than it can count. As part of our special 12 days of Christmas series, UniteLive looks back at a handful of the many wins we’ve had in every month throughout the year.

Today, we reflect on two key wins in August.

Mid Ulster council workers

Mid Ulster council workers in Northern Ireland celebrated a huge victory after securing an enhanced pay deal in August after four weeks of strike action, and just as the striking workers signalled their intention to move to all-out continuous strike action.

The deal involved two fully consolidated pay grade increases and a one-off £750 lump sum above that mandated by the National Joint Council (NJC) pay award. 

Commenting at the time, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “This increase was only won because of a powerful strike by Unite members at the council; indeed only days ago they notified council bosses of their intent to move to an all-out strike after the conclusion of their latest four-week action. In the face of such determination, management have agreed a new pay offer.

“It seems somehow appropriate that we see the first success from Unite’s campaign to improve local authority pay just days before my one year anniversary as General Secretary of Unite,” she added. “I am really proud of the union members in Northern Ireland. This deal is a concrete example of Unite delivering on jobs, pay and conditions for our members.”

Lead regional officer for local authorities in Northern Ireland Gareth Scott added, “This pay offer sets the bar for deals elsewhere and shows the way disputes at other councils can be settled. We are calling on other councils to take heed and follow the lead of Mid Ulster and avoid any further unnecessary disruption. Workers need a cost of living increase which protects them and their families from inflation.”

Coventry council HGV drivers

In another local authority win, Coventry bin workers, employed as HGV drivers, celebrated a massive win in August after taking all-out continuous strike action since January in one of Unite’s longest-ever running disputes.

The bin dispute, which began in January, ended with a pay rise for the drivers worth up to 12.9%, which is worth an estimated £3,600 per year in their pay packets.

The deal also included Christmas bonuses worth some £4,000, and disciplinary charges against Unite shop steward Pete Randle dropped.

Commenting at the time of the win, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said, “This win shows the new direction of Unite. We will defend our members pay and conditions, however long it takes. This continuous action has delivered real terms pay increases for our members.

“This deal represents a fair and just pay award and all charges against our victimised rep have now been dropped,” she added.

“It is quite frankly wrong that our members were forced to take this action against a Labour Council, but Unite will always back its members against any employer who refuses to negotiate,” Graham went on to say. “I am very proud of our reps and members.”

Unite’s National Officer Onay Kasab added, “Unite members relied on the strength of collective action which has secured yet another win for workers. Congratulations to the Coventry HGV strikers!”

Speaking to UniteLive, Unite rep Pete Randall, who was ultimately reinstated and all disciplinary charges against him dropped as part of the deal, explained how he and his fellow Unite members kept going amid the strike for months on end.

“There were times when we thought, ‘How long is this going to go on for?’ There were times I doubted myself every night when I came home,” Pete noted. “But when people ask me what won this, my answer is simple – it was resilience. We never gave up.”

Stay tuned for more Unite wins tomorrow.

By UniteLive team.