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Coventry City Council has hit back at the Unite union’s announcement of escalating strike action among refuse collection drivers, saying it is already one of the highest paying authorities for Class 2 HGV drivers.

The council said the move by Unite meant all residential and commercial premises would have no waste collections during February and March and that it was “bitterly disappointed” by the union’s response.

However, Unite accused Coventry Council of failing to negotiate low pay rates among its 70 union members and that the basic starting salary of £22,183 was far below the average HGV driver earnings in the area.

As a result, it said that from 31 January, workers would take “all out” strike action, which would continue until 23 March.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Coventry council has had every opportunity to resolve this dispute through negotiations, yet they have still failed to table any offer to resolve the industrial action.

“All our members are seeking is a fair day's pay for a fair day's work and for their skills and abilities to be recognised and rewarded.”

The council said it had been engaged in regular meetings with Unite and it had taken action to meet all its requests.

It said it had made offers of £3,500 tax-free incentives to HGV drivers to work Christmas and New Year and a £1,300 supplement for drivers towards the bottom of their pay scale - both of which it claimed had been rejected by the union.

It added that it was already one of the highest paying local authorities for HGV drivers in the West Midlands and it was therefore limited by what else it could offer: “We remain committed to continuing to work with Unite to resolve this situation and have done everything asked of us during the negotiations so far,” said Andrew Walster, council regulatory services director.

“We have made what we believe are very good offers in attempt to resolve the strike, so we are bitterly disappointed that the response has been to announce even more strike dates.

“While we respect the democratic right of the Unite members to strike, it is residents and businesses that are being impacted most by their action.

“We have had great support from local people, and we know many have helped friends, family and neighbours to get rid of excess waste.

Walster added: “We will do all we can to resolve this situation – but it looks as if it might get worse before it gets better so I would like to thank everyone for their patience and support over the next few weeks.”