Council to top up refuse crews as Covid-19 takes toll on service and bin backlogs build up
By Neil Speight
17th Jul 2020 | Local News
THURROCK Council is bringing in extra staff to try and keep up with weekly bin collections across the borough after the impact of Covid-19 has put the service under unprecedented strain.
Over recent weeks residents in all wards across Thurrock have reported some delays in the collection of their green general waste bins and blue recycling bins. Brown garden and kitchen waste bins are currently been collected on a fortnightly basis but there have been some issues there to.
In June workers made a number of early morning starts to try and get the service back on track.
And earlier this month the council acknowledged there were problems with the refuse collection service but played them down.
The environment portfolio holder Cllr Aaron Watkins stepped up to the plate and issued an apology to borough residents for the continuing problems. In particular he laid part of the blame on more people being at home, which created more waste, saying: "Increased waste loads mean more work for crews on collection rounds and that they have to take waste lorries back to the depot, or the tip site in east London, more frequently than usual to empty the especially heavy loads they are carrying. "
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Now Chadwell St Mary councillor Sara Muldowney has drawn more information from the council, which she has shared.
The response she received to questions about delays is as follows: "Since the onset of COVID 19, in order to prevent the spread of the virus and following government guidance, we have not been able to enrol any new additional agency members of staff, in the main due to enrolment, training and induction processes, when staff are asked to work with waste vehicles, but also due to the risk of spreading the virus while two metre distancing was required.
"Under normal operating processes we would supplement annual leave/sickness with agency staff but during this period and in particular the more recent summer months, we have not been able to do so, which has increased pressure on the service and as a consequence refuse and recycling rounds have fallen in some areas to a day behind the normal collection days.
"Recent changes to guidance, risk assessments and mitigation measures are now in place and this week we have started to introduce new agency staff, which will assist with bringing the service to the normal standard.
"Training is well underway and we are confident that this will have a major impact to service delivery during the course of the next week."
Some rumours have been started that all is not well within the waste collection service – which does have a history of troubled industrial relations with the council. One senior figure within the council told Thurrock Nub News that a 'go slow' was being perpetrated by workers to exacerbate problems.
This was fiercely denied by Cllr Watkins who told us: "said: "Our hard-working refuse staff are working in unprecedented times during the coronavirus outbreak. Claims that our refuse staff are on a 'go slow' are fictional and an insult to our crews."
And that was backed up by the workers' union, Unite, who told us: "said: "Refuse workers in Thurrock are working full-tilt on behalf of local residents."
The stance of the union is in marked contrast to the situation in April as Covid-19 began to impact and lockdown was introduced when there was unrest within the department and Unite confirmed that unless things improved they might consider industrial action.