NEGOTIATIONS between striking bin workers and Rugby Borough Council (RBC) are ’80 per cent of the way there’, according to Unite the Union.
Speaking at a rally outside the Town Hall today (Thursday May 19), a union representative told The Observer their final sticking point was getting a pay rise for loaders.
Earlier this week, RBC offered to increase wages for lorry drivers and street cleaners in the hopes of ending the strike as it entered a fourth week – but refused a pay rise for loaders, instead offering to extend their working day to boost their wages.
The council offered to raise drivers’ maximum annual wage from £23,400 to £30,940, and street cleaners’ from £19,200 to £24,587.
RBC said Unite’s request for loaders to be paid for Community Time equivalent to 30 minutes work per day could be agreed by increasing their hours from 37 to 39.5 per week – “bringing an end to the practice of allowing staff to leave work as soon as bin collection rounds are completed”. Loaders’ maximum wage is currently £21,300.
Unite regional officer Zoe Mayou said: “We haven’t rejected the whole offer. Although we’re 80 per cent of the way there, the final sticking point is the loaders. We’ve always been clear that until we get something for everybody, we’re not accepting the deal as a whole.
“If the council want to have a discussion around changing terms and conditions and hours of working, that’s a separate negotiation.”
The bin workers joined a protest at the Town Hall today to coincide with RBC’s annual Mayor-making ceremony.
They are demanding a pay increase in protest at a 1.75 per cent pay rise for local government workers which was negotiated nationally by the National Joint Council for Local Government Services and agreed by the Unison and GMB trade unions over a year ago.
They say they are struggling to afford the basics amid spiralling price rises, as inflation hit a 40-year high of nine per cent this week.
RBC made its pay offer after concluding a review of job roles and pay which began in November.
A spokesman said: “Analysis has confirmed that an increase in pay in the street cleaner and driver roles is justified. It has also showed that interim increases in driver pay that had been agreed in December should be made permanent.
“Analysis of refuse loader roles confirmed that the existing grade, which attracts above average pay, is correct.”
RBC leader Coun Seb Lowe said: “We have balanced our responsibilities towards our staff with our responsibilities to our residents. We are mindful of the need to be good stewards of public money.
“We are continuing to engage in constructive discussions with Unite and, while we cannot alter the national pay settlement, we have made an offer and hope to reach an agreement soon.”
The strike is due to end on June 15.