A strike involving 40 HGV bin lorry drivers employed by Coventry Council is “inevitable” after negotiations collapsed this week, according to union Unite.
The union claims that during negotiations yesterday (31 July) the Labour-led council threatened the drivers with “significant cuts” to their terms and conditions and refused to negotiate “in any meaningful way”.
More than 40 HGV refuse lorry drivers employed by Coventry council have voted for strike action in response to plans to end industry standard “task and finish” provisions. The condition allows refuse workers to leave work when collection rounds are finished - rather than stay until the end of the working day.
The union says the attacks on the drivers' terms and conditions are part of the council’s attempts to fight equal pay claims by GMB members. The GMB has launched 200 equal pay claims against the council.
The council is arguing that the “task and finish” provision allows the male dominated refuse collection workforce a condition that is not available to other workers on the same pay grade working in other parts of the council and will open up further equal pay claims.
Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said: “Unite went into talks with an open mind and was prepared to negotiate.
“Unfortunately, rather than talk, the council issued ultimatums and threats and refused to negotiate in any meaningful way.
“It is clearly intent on disregarding Labour principles and forcing wages and T&Cs downwards for both the refuse workers and its other staff. Negotiations have collapsed and Unite will be announcing strike action in due course.”
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Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Coventry council’s race to the bottom agenda for its workers has been laid bare. The council agenda is not about genuine equality, it is instead about equalising the misery.
“It is prepared to severely attack terms and conditions so it can keep down pay and conditions for staff who are on even worse contracts.
“This kind of levelling down and anti-worker behaviour is completely unacceptable, especially for a so-called Labour council. Unless the council climbs down from these atrocious plans, strike action is inevitable.”
During the first half of 2022, Coventry’s HGV refuse lorry drivers went on strike for six months to secure a pay rise. Unite claims the council unsuccessfully spent £9.4m trying to break the strike – which it said dwarfed the costs of settling the pay claim.
A spokesperson for Coventry City Council said: "It is totally untrue that we are refusing to negotiate and we are not issuing threats.
“What is true is that out of over 70 drivers, only 42 were Unite members of which only 19 voted for strike action.
“If we do not end “task and finish” then we will have a yearly bill which can only lead to job cuts and cuts in services. This would be terrible news for employees and for Coventry residents.
“We believe the way through this is by negotiation so it is bitterly disappointing that the union appears to be taking its members towards strike action once again. They left yesterday's meeting not willing to talk further.
“If we do get to the point of strike action we know this will cause disruption for our residents and want to reassure everyone that we will do all we can to minimise the disruption this will cause as well as continuing to work with all unions to resolve these issues."