Mixed emotions at the end of Coventry bin driver strike – Coventry City Council

Although news that the union Unite has ended its bin lorry driver strike is welcome, Coventry City Council is frustrated at the amount of time it has taken to agree the deal.

The frustration comes from the fact that core elements of the deal have been on the table before the drivers were even balloted on strike action last year.

This unnecessary delay has meant the Council has had to deal with a net cost pressure of more than £4 million, through a mixture of paying for mitigation measures to ensure Coventry residents continued to receive waste collection services and a substantial loss in commercial waste income.

During the last seven months of the strike, it has at times felt like more than an employment dispute. Council officers trying to deliver public services and elected members – particularly in the run-up to the May elections – were targeted through coordinated and misleading attacks made through a supposed community activist group that received Unite funding.

However, today’s agreement – which does not include bin lorry drivers’ pay rising to Grade 6 which was one of the initial strike demands – brings Unite’s strike action to an end. The deal has also been approved by GMB and Unison who were keen to ensure there had been no breach of equal pay laws that could affect its members – a real risk from Unite’s initial demands that could have cost the Council up to £30 million each year in claims.

The bin lorry drivers have been on strike since the turn of the year, but residents have been receiving waste services as normal for much of that time.

Mitigation measures such as waste drop-off points and sub-contracting out the striking part of the statutory service meant Coventry did not suffer the fate of significant rubbish build-ups like other cities where strike action has taken place.

Coventry City Council would like to place on record its thanks to the bin collectors and other staff in waste services who continued to work hard for the city throughout the long-running dispute.

Andrew Walster, Director, Streetscene and Regulatory Services at Coventry City Council which covers bin services, said: “Although agreement has finally been reached, as a Council we are bitterly disappointed that it has taken so long to get here.

“This deal could have been agreed much sooner. The core elements regarding the minimum salary for bin lorry drivers has been on the table since January this year. In fact, the changes to weekend working to boost pay for all drivers – which is within the Council’s existing terms and conditions – is something that was initially offered in November last year before drivers were balloted.

“The biggest frustration has been the disruption households have at times had to endure because of this action. However, some of the feedback we have received about the mitigation measures has been that the service has actually improved, and we are determined this improvement will continue.

“I know as a Council we are absolutely committed to delivering a best-in-class waste service the residents of this city expect and deserve and this will happen.”

Friday, 29th July 2022

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