Veolia has promised to give its ‘utmost support’ to employees in Sheffield – following an announcement by the city council that it may scrap its 35-year contract with the waste management company.
In a bid to allay concerns, Veolia said today (11 January) that it would keep workers employed on the collection, disposal and energy recovery contract ‘informed’ as the situation progresses.
Sheffield city council will vote next week whether to terminate its arrangement with Veolia by April 2018 on the grounds that it is not delivering the desired savings. The current contract budget for all of the services operated by Veolia will stand at £27 million in 2017/18 (see letsrecycle.com story) according to a report for the authority’s cabinet.
As with many public private partnership contracts, it is expected Sheffield city council will incur huge penalties by pulling out of deal which started in 2001. When contacted by letsrecycle.com, the authority said that a detailed breakdown of the costs, to be considered at next week’s meeting, was “classified”.
According to the council, Veolia employs around 180 people through the contract. Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment, said the authority would “consult” with the workforce if the move to a new contractor goes ahead.
Veolia has in the past experienced an often rocky relationship with its Sheffield collection crews over pay disputes. This has resulted in a number of strikes hitting collections in the city over the years, with these supported by the GMB trade union (see letsrecycle.com story).
But commenting on the council’s announcement today, a Veolia spokeswoman said: “We are proud to stand by our operational record in Sheffield in delivering sustainable environmental performance and value for money whilst minimising risk to the client. Veolia has also always been happy to discuss different service options with the council over the course of our partnership and will continue to work with the authority to deliver efficient services.
“We obviously recognise that this statement by the council to discuss alternative service options will be a concern to our employees and will do our utmost to support them and keep them informed as this matter progresses.”
Veolia added that since the start of the contract recycling in Sheffield had increased “fivefold” while its operation of the Sheffield energy recovery facility had maximised heat generation to the benefit of homes and businesses.
Veolia secured the Sheffield contract in 2001 when it was known as Onyx Aurora (see letsrecycle.com story) in the face of competition from WRG, now FCC Environmental.
The contract was valued at £1.3 billion in 2001 and the city council’s then chief executive, Bob Kerslake, said: “We are pleased with the bid put forward by Onyx. Outsourcing is the best option available for integrated waste management services in the city.”
Late last year, now as Lord Kerslake, he again praised the success of the Veolia contract with Sheffield when he officially opened the Leeming Biogas plant, operated by Veolia, in Yorkshire. He recalled his time in Sheffield and “the need to replace the city’s incinerator”, with a contract let to Onyx for development of a new energy from waste facility.
Back in August 2001, the then Onyx (now Veolia) deputy chief executive John Kutner (see letsrecycle.com story) said: “I am delighted that Onyx can now begin to start the development of Sheffield’s integrated waste management strategy. This is a prestigious contract which we are proud to be associated with and we look forward to working with the City Council and the people of Sheffield over the next 30 years.”