BIN workers in Rugby who are due to begin a two-week strike tomorrow (Tuesday April 26) are ‘struggling to afford the basics’, with some turning to foodbanks to feed their families, says the union organising the strike.
Members of Unite the Union who work in Rugby Borough Council’s (RBC) refuse, recycling and street cleansing services are taking strike action to demand a pay increase, as inflation reaches a 30-year high and food and energy costs continue to spiral.
The strike is scheduled to continue until May 10 – although the union has not ruled out further action if a deal has not been reached by then.
Unite says RBC’s street cleansers, HGV lorry drivers and loaders are some of the lowest paid compared to neighbouring councils and to local transport and warehouse workers in the private sector.
It says the starting salary for street cleaners in Rugby begins at £17,100 and reaches £19,200 after five years. The loaders’ annual wage begins at £19,200, reaching £21,300 after five years, while drivers earn £21,300 rising to £23,400 after five years.
The strike is in protest over a 1.75 per cent pay rise for local government workers, which was negotiated nationally by the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services and agreed by the Unison and GMB trade unions.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Instead of recognising that a pay increase is an absolute necessity as living costs spiral upwards, Rugby Borough Council has dragged its feet for over a year. These workers are now struggling to put food on the table and pay the bills.
“Unite’s members at Rugby Borough Council have their union’s full backing in their fight for decent pay.”
Unite regional officer Zoe Mayou added: “It’s a total disgrace. Some of the workers have even needed to resort to using food banks. With the cost of living crisis set to get worse, the workers face an emergency. Rugby Borough Council needs to deliver a significant pay uplift for the workers.
“It’s time to pay these essential workers a decent wage.”
An RBC spokesman said: “The 1.75 per cent pay settlement was negotiated and agreed by the NJC for Local Government Services, which has 70 members – 12 representing employers and 58 representing trade unions.
“The NJC negotiates the pay settlement for more than 300 local councils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which covers more than 1.4million local government and school workers.
“Rugby Borough Council has a constructive relationship with Unite and in February completed a ‘benchmarking’ review of our refuse loader and street cleansing roles, comparing the council’s pay with the pay offered for similar roles by 19 other employers, both other local councils and companies in the private sector.
“The council’s pay for both roles was found to be above the median pay offered by the other companies and, in many cases, in the upper quartile.
“We have communicated this information to both Unite and our refuse, recycling and street cleansing workforce.
“The findings of the benchmarking review complement the favourable general terms and conditions the council offers in relation to employer pension contributions, annual leave and sickness entitlement. Our refuse and recycling teams also benefit from working to ‘task and finish’, which enables a better work/life balance.
“However, the council remains committed to working constructively with Unite and, following the benchmarking review, agreed in February to review all relevant job descriptions to ensure pay grades reflect the duties and responsibilities each role entails.
“We have committed to completing this review by the end of May 2022.”
The spokesman said RBC hoped to provide residents with more information about bin collection services during the strike today (Monday April 25). Visit www.rugby.gov.uk/servicedisruption for updates.