The GMB union has called on the Local Government Association (LGA) to spell out how refuse staff can safely provide an “essential service” while meeting social distancing requirements.
Refuse workers have been identified as ‘key workers’ by the government, and plans are said to be in place to ensure waste is collected during lockdown measures.
The GMB Union however has said that instructions to simply continue as normal “cannot be right”.
GMB London, which describes itself as the union for refuse service workers, has now written to the LGA asking them to follow up the government latest directives with clear guidelines to all councils and contractors on how to implement the social distancing for staff.
In a statement, the union said the aim should be to operate essential services in such a way that the welfare and well being of refuse staff is not compromised, whilst waste collection services to the public are safely maintained .
Keith Williams GMB senior organiser said: ” Despite the governments directive regarding social distancing and the lock down measures that [have come] into effect, GMB have been advised that refuse crews are been instructed to carry on work as normal. This cannot be right.
“The effects of this is that employees are expected to go out in cabs that are inadequate for compliance with social distancing. Further, employees are not been provided with daily masks and anti viral hand gel.
“As GMB understands it the government directive on social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID -19 pandemic is unequivocally clear that we should all keep two meters apart and only two people should be together unless they are living in the same household.”
The union says it recognises the collection of refuse is essential, but has urged the Local Government Association and local authorities to put immediate measures in place with their waste management service providers to protect the well being and welfare of its members.
“Employees are expected to go out in cabs that are inadequate for compliance with social distancing”
Mr Williams added: “Refuse is not a role that can be carried out at home. So refuse contractors and Local Authority Clients have a responsibility to minimise risk during this unprecedented pandemic. It is essential that they should be working collaboratively with GMB to look at options to ensure that refuse workers are not taken for granted. They need to be shown the same level of respect and regard as all other Local Government and critical workers at this moment in time.”