'˜Dramatic increase' of verbal abuse towards Edinburgh's bin workers

Union officials have raised concerns over council staff using waste and cleansing vehicles that are 'not fit for purpose' as bin collection problems are set to continue over Christmas.

Thursday, 13th December 2018, 6:28 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th December 2018, 6:30 pm
Bin workers. Pic: Ian Georgeson

The city council agreed for officers to draw up a report on the “effectiveness” of how health and safety is managed, along with “monitoring and reporting procedures” after listening to fears raised by Unison.

Ian Mullen from Unison Edinburgh said: “Verbal and physical abuse of front-line staff has increased dramatically.

“There was a lack of training on vehicles and plant. Around street cleansing, we are currently using vehicles that are not fit for purpose. Budget cuts are no excuse for taking shortcuts.”

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Transport and environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, agreed to meet with union officials to discuss any specific issues in detail. She also revealed that problems with waste collections are likely to continue over Christmas, but improvements are expected in the New Year.

She said: “There are inevitably going to be those teething problems – there doesn’t seem to be an acceptance of that reality. We are managing the process relatively well.

“Over the last four weeks, complaints have dropped by over 47 per cent.

“We are likely to see stresses again on the system over Christmas – it happens every year. Given that’s the case, I will be expecting to see a return to the levels we were having in the early part of this year. I will be watching very carefully for those as we move through January.”

Mr Mullen highlighted that Unison has carried out more than 30 workplace inspections in the Capital since June 2017 including community centres and libraries.

He added: “Feedback from those reports have either been non-existent or very slow in coming back.

“In one of the community centres we identified a risk involving silica dust. This was reported in June 2017 and we are still awaiting an air quality survey.”

Labour Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, who tabled the motion calling for improvements, said she was frustrated it has taken a long time for the issues to be brought to the council. She said: “I’m deeply concerned as a council that we should not be in this position – I do worry about the strains on our staff.”

Fellow Labour Cllr Scott Arthur told the union official that he felt “quite ashamed” of the revelations around health and safety.

Opposition councillors also backed health and safety of council staff being improved.