New offer made to GMB – “let’s get this resolved”

Canterbury City Council’s waste contractor Canenco has today (Thursday 10 August) put a new offer to the GMB union to pay drivers £15 an hour and loaders £12 an hour from January 2024, paid for from changes to working operations at Canenco.

This represents an additional percentage increase of 4.6 per cent on the previous deal agreed with Unison in July, going from 7.6% to 12.2% overall, and would also apply to Unison and non-unionised staff.

Canenco will begin annual pay negotiations with Unison, as the recognised union, in 2024 using this new base rate as the starting point.

The GMB has been holding industrial action for several weeks in order to achieve pay rates of £15 and £12 an hour.

Canenco understands the GMB is now considering the offer, and both Canenco and the council are urging those on strike to accept it and return to work.

The extra cost to Canenco and the council to reach those hourly rates on top of the deal agreed with Unison in July – £14.45 for drivers and £11.61 for loaders – is £300,000.

This money will be found through efficiency savings at Canenco, not from new council or Canenco money.

Both organisations have been clear throughout the dispute that no new money in this financial year would be available to fund increased wages.

Over the last 12 months, driver and loader finish times each day have been closely monitored to assess whether the service has been operating as efficiently as possible.

This was a planned piece of work.

When Canenco was created in 2021, both it and the council believed the set up under the previous contractor, Serco, was not as effective as it could be and needed to be thoroughly reviewed.

And importantly, any changes arising as a result of that review needed to be based on clear evidence that it would not have an impact on the service to residents.

The data from the monitoring of finish times shows there is sufficient room within the operation to be able to run with fewer staff overall.

This is because the service currently operates on a ‘job and knock’ basis, which rewards efficiency on completion by allowing crews to go home as soon as their round is done – although they do carry out extra collections on top of their usual round as and when required.

Waste operatives will be required to more regularly work close to their contracted hours, which is how operations in other areas of the country and in Kent are run.

Round sizes will be increased slightly in line with those working hours, but will be balanced to make sure work is allocated fairly for those affected.

There will be no changes to collection days for residents.

As a result, fewer crews and vehicles will be required to run the service.

There are no plans for redundancies, with staff number reductions to come from using fewer agency workers and not replacing a proportion of staff who choose to leave the organisation in the coming months.

It also delivers parity in hours and pay across Canenco’s street cleaning, grounds maintenance and waste teams.

And the operational savings generated from this change in approach will be sufficient to meet the GMB’s salary demands and bring the strike to an end.

Canenco Director, David Maidman, said: “The creation of Canenco in 2021 transformed the waste collection service, resulting in a huge reduction in missed bins when compared with the failing private contractor, Serco.

“It was followed not long after by a decision to end the council’s grounds maintenance and associated works contract with Serco early and also bring that work under Canenco.

“That decision and other issues such as Covid and driver shortages meant the work to carry out the comprehensive review of the Serco waste operation had to be held back for a while.

“However, over the last 12 months there has been very close analysis of how it operates.

“And while Canenco had planned to bring in the changes gradually over time, taking into account the delayed national changes to waste collections, the ongoing industrial action by GMB members means they are being fast tracked in order to bring matters to a close.”

Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Alan Baldock, said: “Canenco has done a great job in demonstrating that a deal can be reached without any impact on council services or waste collections.

“We have to say this very clearly to the GMB: this is it. There is no other offer on the table.

“Accept both the money and the new approach to working and let’s get this resolved.

“We would also stress that throughout this strike, the GMB has been very keen to compare what happens at other councils.

“From our research, this deal does reflect those working practices in neighbouring districts and the January start time for the uplift is again in line with other districts.

“And for residents, there will be no change in the service they receive, other than their collection may be at a slightly different time in the day.”

Published: 10 August 2023

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