Socialist Worker

Pressure from bin workers forces new safety regime

Issue No. 2699

Bin workers in Bexley won over coronavirus health and safety last month

Bin workers in Bexley won over coronavirus health and safety last month (Pic: Willie Howard)


Bin workers’ unions have forced outsourcing bosses to make pay and health and safety guarantees over coronavirus.

Subcontractor Amey, which runs refuse services at councils across Britain, has agreed to give full sick pay to workers who are self-isolating.

This will include those who have to ­self-isolate for seven or 14 days because they have coronavirus symptoms or live with someone who has symptoms.

Workers with underlying health conditions, who have to self-isolate for 12 weeks, will get full sick pay too.

One senior executive at Amey had claimed coronavirus was “less severe” than seasonal flu and that only statutory sick pay was relevant.

This led to outrage from workers and their unions—and pushed bosses to retreat.

Keith Williams, GMB union London region senior organiser, said, “GMB welcomes this decision.

“Amey recognise that they initially got the decision wrong and we are happy to accept the apology.” Financial

Jim Kennedy, Unite national officer for local authorities, said, “Workers should not be put into a position where they feel that they have to break self-isolation rules for financial reasons.

“Unite is looking forward to seeing how Amey will tackle the social distancing challenges in its workplace.”

Kennedy warned bosses that the union “will not hesitate to take further action to ensure that the health of our members is not endangered”.

Disposal 

Meanwhile, the threat of action by waste disposal workers in Kent has forced bosses to step up coronavirus protection.

Medway rubbish collectors and street cleaners had threatened an all-out strike over the lack of protective gear and equipment.

Unite regional officer Onay Kasab had warned the council that the union would “support any and all members who refuse to begin work”.

Shortly afterwards subcontractor Norse Medway agreed to a range of safety measures.

The company, which provides refuse services for Medway council, had made staff “sit four to a cab with insufficient personal protection equipment”.

The new procedures include not insisting on workers sitting more than two to a vehicle cab and full provision of hand sanitiser, gloves, masks and wipes.

Unite regional officer Phil Silkstone said, “These measures should have been introduced immediately.”

A similar agreement was reached with Thurrock council in Essex.

Workers’ action can force bosses to protect health and safety.


Forth fights job assaults

Workers at Forth Valley College in Falkirk, Alloa and Stirling are in dispute over bosses’ attempts to replace some lecturers with “instructors”.

Lecturers in hairdressing, care, construction and engineering have all been asked to consider voluntary redundancy or to take instructor roles instead.

EIS-Fela union members are fighting the cost-cutting.

Union members voted for action in an indicative ballot, before the coronavirus shutdown.

But even though the college is closed, bosses are pursuing their attack, suggesting holding redundancy consultation meetings online.

EIS-Fela president Pam Currie said, “The fact that a global pandemic could not stop a college management hell-bent on ‘transformational change’ highlights the low regard that senior management have for staff.”

Over 1,000 people last week emailed Scotland’s FE and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead about the plans.

Lochhead complained that his email system was blocked up as a result.

Workers also held an online rally in protest at the plans. 


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