DISGRUNTLED bin men have been blamed for adding to the on-going rubbish collection chaos by staging an unofficial “work-to-rule” protest.
A “small group” of workers has been accused of refusing to lift bin bags left beside wheely bins, leaving bins with slighly open lids unemptied and failing to report problems they find on their collection routes.
Discontent has grown among some bin men who have seen their pay cut and shifts changed in recent years as part of council “modernisation” of working practices.
City council director of services Mark Turley has now warned he is ready to take action against rogue bin men as his department struggles to introduce fortnightly bin collections, with rubbish piling up in the streets in some part of the Capital for almost five weeks.
He said: “The vast majority have behaved responsibly. I think there is a small group of people who are not being cooperative – there has to be a hard edge to this.
“We are being patient and understanding, but if people are not doing the job they are paid to do then we need to act upon this.”
There is growing unhappiness at the City Chambers over the behaviour of some bin men. One council source said: “There are clear signs that some bin men are compounding the problems unnecessarily and I have heard mutterings that they need to remember their jobs were saved when ABM [the privatisation plan] was ditched and it could come back.”
Cameron Rose, Conservative group leader on the city council, said: “It’s a bit damning of the system and management that after five weeks of the new rounds they still haven’t got it right.
“It’s unacceptable that householders have to suffer intermittent bin collections. Management need to take firm action with those employees who are dragging their feet. It is essential that we get a more efficient service and if this means returning to the option of outsourcing then so be it.”
Plans to privatise refuse collection, street cleaning and ground maintenance through the Alternative Business Model were shelved last year. Bin men were also persuaded to end industrial action and accept £45 million of savings that were part of the “in-house” alternative.
At yesterday’s meeting, Councillor Allan Jackson asked about the issue of bin men refusing to empty bins with open lids. In reply, Mr Turley said: “Our advice is absolutely unequivocal – bin men will collect side waste [bags left outside bins]. Historically this has been a sore point with the workforce.”
Former environment convener Cllr Robert Aldridge also questioned the “flexibility” of staff.
But union chiefs insisted that their members were doing all they could to implement the new changes despite “systemic management issues”.
Peter Lawson, of Unite, said: “There are no disruptive workers. In fact, a lot of goodwill has been shown by bin men moving to new shift patterns and routes. I don’t know where the council are getting this from. The routes that are causing the problems are ones that union members had no input in organising. Bin men with years of experience were never asked to give an opinion.”