Council ends practice that allowed bin men to finish shift early

Bin men collect rubbish in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Bin men collect rubbish in Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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A CONTROVERSIAL working practice that allowed bin men to finish their shifts up to four hours early is to be scrapped.

The move comes after the Evening News was leaked a private council document which claimed refuse staff are failing to work to their contracted hours, bringing the council “into disrepute”.

It said a long-standing working practice known as “task and finish” saw bin men go home after completing their usual route, instead of working until the end of their shift.

This led to “unsafe working practices” as staff rushed to finish early, it stated.

Council bosses tried to end task and finish as far back as 2009 – but it later emerged it had been allowed to continue.

Now city chiefs have demanded an end to the practice once and for all, with a deadline of November 1 given before it has to stop.

Union bosses last night branded the decision a “phoney war” that would “not solve the fundamental problem of a lack of investment in the city’s refuse services”.

But Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said bringing task and finish to an end would help improve bin collections.

The city’s 24-hour complaints service was inundated with 53,862 complaints about unemptied or overflowing bins between July 2015 and July this year – an average of one every ten minutes right through the day and night.

Cllr Hinds said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the waste workforce for their co-operation over recent years, during which the service has undergone major changes, including seven-day working and increased recycling collections. Staff have really stepped up to the mark during this period.

“As a coalition we have committed to ending the practice of task and finish by the end of October, and are in the process of briefing staff on this.

“It is our aim that these changes will help us make real improvements to our waste and cleansing service, in turn benefiting the public.”

Peter Lawson, Unite’s Edinburgh Council convener, said members had been “struggling to keep the city clean in the face of massive cuts”.

He added: “Edinburgh’s environmental services budget has fallen by at least £17 million in real terms since 2009.

“The council needs to be honest with people. Pretending that changing working practices is going to fix problems is not helping anyone.

“Councillors need to admit that the service is underfunded, and start having an open conversation with Edinburgh’s citizens and the Scottish Government about how to address that crisis.”

It is understood city leaders met with council departments yesterday to tell them the widespread practice must end.

Over the last few weeks, the Evening News has been inundated with complaints from readers regarding the state of bins across the Capital.

Our ongoing Bin Watch campaign seeks to highlight problem hotspots in a bid to force the council to take action.

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk