The council and the union have been locked in an ongoing battle over the pay and conditions of refuse collection drivers in Coventry since last December. Around 70 drivers have taken part in strike action.

The Labour-run local authority maintains that the city council is one of the highest paying local authorities in the West Midlands for Class II HGV drivers.

However, Unite yesterday challenged that claim. They found that the starting rate for refuse collection drivers in Birmingham is over £5,500 above the £22,183 per annum that Coventry drivers earn.

The union also pointed out that in nearby Dudley, some refuse collection drivers start on £28,673, nearly £6,500 more than Coventry council currently pays.

‘These figures demolish Coventry council’s claims that they are paying the rate. It is abundantly clear that they are not. It is time to pay the rate for the job,’ said Unite general secretary Sharon Graham.

‘Patience with this council, a Labour council let’s not forget, is wearing very thin. They’ve spent nearly £3m to avoid paying low paid workers a fair wage, including £300,000 to a refuse firm owned by the council and yet councillors have failed to attend a single minute of the negotiations with Unite.

‘Set against the £250,000 it would cost to end this dispute, this is a ridiculous position and a total waste of local council taxpayers’ money.’ In response, a Coventry City Council spokesperson said that Unite was not comparing like with like. The higher paying roles in Birmingham and Dudley are different positions.

‘Coventry City Council employs class 2 HGV drivers for a minimum of 40 hours per week to drive refuse vehicles. The current rate of pay for this 40-hour week is £24,874 - £31,104. The council only has a requirement for class 2, non-articulated, drivers for its refuse fleet,’ the spokesperson said.

‘In an attempt to solve the current dispute the council has offered to increase pay at the bottom of the pay grade so that no employee earns less than £26,922 per year. This would provide a revised grade of £26,922 - £31,104, prior to any national, cost of living pay award being applied.’

The spokesperson continued: ‘The city council is aware that Dudley has two rates of pay for class 2 HGV drivers as they employ some drivers in a managerial role; it is this team leader role that Unite are referring to not the standard driver role. The rate for Dudley’s standard HGV driver is understood to be £24,982 - £27,742 and it is this driver role that is comparable with the driver role in Coventry

‘Likewise, Birmingham has two different types of HGV driver posts within their structure. An HGV driver paid between £20,903 to £27,041, and a driver/supervisor paid £27,741 - £34,728.

‘Coventry therefore remains one of the best paying local authorities for class 2 HGV drivers in the West Midlands. Actual HGV driver pay including casual overtime, for the year up until October 2021 ranged from £28,148 - £52,163 for a fulltime employee, working a full year.’