Council response to Unite claims

Published Wednesday, 05 January 2022 The Council has issued a statement in response to claims made by the Unite union regarding the ongoing strike action. The statement reads:

Once again, we are forced to correct blatant inaccuracies published by the union Unite regarding the ongoing talks to try and stop the strike action they have organised. While we do not want to get into a public war of words, failing to challenge the falsehoods they are continuing to present runs the risk of people believing them. The residents of Coventry that we serve deserve better.

In the union’s latest release[1] from its national headquarters, there are several pieces of information presented as ‘facts’ that are simply not true.

  • Not one of the bin lorry drivers earn “as little as GBP22,183 a year.” We pay them. We know.
    Over the last the 12 months the lowest paid driver took home GBP28,148, with the highest earner receiving GBP52,163.
    As a responsible employer we take exception to Unite’s claim that we pay our drivers “poverty pay rates”. The facts are that the average pay a bin lorry driver received over the last 12 months was GBP34,143.

    You decide if that’s poverty pay.

  • Unite claim “Our Coventry members agreed to postpone strike action over Christmas in good faith to allow further talks with the city council.”
    The truth is we were informed by Unite’s Regional Officer they had failed to follow due process meaning the strike before Christmas was to be called off, but the January strikes remained.
    We stayed silent on the reason as we were more focused on the talks but when an attempt is made to rewrite history to win public favour, we are compelled to put the record straight.
  • Unite seem justifiably proud of the “12.5 per cent pay uplift, worth about GBP3,000 a year” deal they have negotiated for bin lorry drivers in Plymouth and encourage Coventry to do the same.
    But the deal they have achieved means Plymouth drivers now have the potential to earn at the top of the grade about GBP29,500 a year. As already stated, the average earnings of a bin lorry driver in Coventry in the last 12 months was GBP34,143.
  • Unite claim the reason talks planned for 4 Jan were halted was because “the only offer tabled was one our membership had previously rejected.”
    The facts are we did not table any offer on the 4th as they did not happen. We wanted independent mediators ACAS to be part of the conversation and Unite wanted to speak to their members before taking part.

    There is no mention of ACAS in their official statement.

  • Unite claim there is an HGV driver retention problem. For Class I HGV drivers that is true and has been well-publicised nationally. Class I drivers drive the articulated lorries that are so essential to guaranteeing supplies across the country from food to petrol.

    But Coventry City Council does not employ any Class I drivers. Our bin lorry drivers are Class II HGV drivers. Nationally, Class II drivers earn less than Class I.
    Recruitment and retention are thankfully issues we do not face.

    We have lost 14 Class II HGV drivers in the last three years but only three because of pay or conditions. We have also added an additional four crews into our service in the last six months meaning we have successfully recruited an additional 20 employees without any problem.

Coventry City Council remains committed to resolving the ongoing issues Unite have raised with us. That has not, and will not, change.

Although we remain committed, we have limits to what we can offer as we know we already are one of the highest paying local authorities in the West Midlands for Class II HGV drivers. We are also mindful of the duty we have to all of our 4,500-strong workforce and the possibility of future equal pay claims. But above all, we are mindful of the inevitable impact this strike action is having on our residents.

We are really sorry about this and we want to be clear that we remain open and willing to do all we can resolve things.

References

  1. ^ latest release (www.unitetheunion.org)




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