Sector in ‘toughest challenge yet’, FCC says 

FCC Environment has said the waste sector is facing its “biggest challenge of the pandemic yet” as staff shortages caused by self-isolation and other factors start to bite.

The waste management company said last week (29 July) that the “pingdemic”, referring to the record amount of people self isolating through the NHS test and trace app, has “truly taken hold” and has come at the “worst possible time” for the waste industry.

FCC Environment said the ‘pingdemic’ has come at the worst possible time for the sector

In a statement, the company said: “Over recent weeks, you’d have been hard pressed to speak to a friend or colleague who was not having to self-isolate, or at least knew someone who was. The so-called ‘pingdemic’ has truly taken hold, with a record 618,903 alerts sent to users of the NHS Covid-19 app in the space of just one week.

“Initial headlines tended to focus on the talk of potential food shortages, with supply chain issues arising from those working in the logistics and retail sectors having to self-isolate. But the impact is far more significant, reaching all sectors and aspects of our daily lives –”.

The waste management company also touched on reports that “dozens of councils across England have been forced to suspend bin collections due to staff self-isolating”.

Brexit

FCC also explained that Brexit has “significantly reduced” the availability of workers across many sectors, and that this is “directly impacting” the waste industry’s ability to secure the qualified drivers it needs to maintain service delivery.

It continued: “As a sector, we have been reliant historically on agency staff, but this route is also presenting issues as agencies face the same challenges as us. The industry is, on average, reporting around a 15 percent vacancy rate for driver positions, which is making it difficult for us to fulfil the services that customers and taxpayers pay us to deliver.”

Resource intensive

The company reiterated that measures put in place by the industry to curb the pressure, such as the suspension of garden waste collections, are not “long term solutions”.

FCC said it was pleased to see government include the waste industry in new guidance that will allow staff to undertake daily tests instead of self-isolating, however, added that the administration involved in registering workers for just a few weeks before the new isolation rules come in on August 16 is proving to be “resource intensive”.

It then called on the government to look into introducing a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers, and consider including them on the list of skilled occupations.

To help tackle the shortage of drivers we would like the Government to look into introducing a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers

Wider shortages

The statement concludes: “With the country now ‘unlocked’ and large-scale events recommencing, we are still concerned that this issue may become more acute in the coming weeks, but we are confident we are resilient enough as a sector to continue delivering for the nation.

“The measures to curb the ‘pingdemic’ will not tackle the wider shortages we will face as a result of Brexit. In the midst of the first lockdown, government recognised the vital role workers in the sector play and gave them key worker status to reflect this. To help tackle the shortage of drivers we would like the Government to look into introducing a temporary worker visa for HGV drivers and consider including them on the list of skilled occupations where we have a shortage in workers, allowing applicants permission to stay in the country without earning the required salary.”

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