Whistleblower says attitude of Wigan's bin unions is 'too militant'

A row over the three-week black bin rota has deepened after a whistleblower laid the blame for problems at the depots with trade unions and workers unwilling to adapt.

Friday, 24th August 2018, 2:35 pm
Updated Friday, 24th August 2018, 4:05 pm
A new twist has emerged in the bins row

The Observer previously carried allegations of near-meltdown over the controversial schedule changes, with hundreds of bins being missed and staff sickness rates rocketing over stress.

However, another source, who has asked not to be identified, has now said that is not the problem at all and there is a reluctance to accept inevitable changes.

Wigan Council says it was aware changing the bin rota would not be an entirely smooth process and a massive staff consultation exercise is currently under way.

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Leading trade union Unison has also responded to allegations it had a blanket opposition to any of the proposals put forward.

The latest whistleblower said that many of the problems previously raised, such as bins full of rotting food and vermin and other council staff being drafted in to help clear up outstanding rounds, were nowhere near as sinister as had previously been made out.

The whistleblower said: “The completion of rounds is always the main priority, so if these have not been completed then naturally the waste still has to be collected asap.

“The crews do not work on Mondays, so all the trucks are parked up and therefore can be used on Monday to collect the outstanding waste.

“You can’t blame management for using other drivers such as road sweepers or highways drivers or those from the cleansing department. They work Monday to Friday so they are just using the resources available.

"This happened long before the three-weekly changes took place, if there was someone that rang in sick and they hadn’t got enough to fully crew a round then as cleansing personnel came in at 7am they would be re-deployed to bin crews for the day.

“The council is trying to save money not waste it on unnecessary overtime payments. If crews are as exhausted as the whistleblower claims, then why should they come in on their day off instead of recuperating?

“When the changes were being made management wanted a more flexible approach so if you were finished early you could go home early, but if you had a busy round or breakdown or delay then stay later, but this caused too much hoo-ha with the militants and the unions.

“That union wanted to cause chaos by planning industrial action and strikes.

“The three-weekly changes were inevitable. Government ongoing cuts, recycling rates and targets forced the changes but the union and militant workforce would not budge on the very basic issues.

“We actually get a long weekend every week now and no bank holiday Mondays.

“Incidentally, the union that dug its heels in are now fighting for compensation for the stubborn militants claiming they were bullied into taking the new terms and conditions.”

Unison regional manager Kevin Lucas said many of the whistleblower’s complaints were “old news”, with the council initially trying to impose new contracts last year but constructive negotiation involving the town hall, Unison and its members had led to the dispute being resolved

Wigan Council hailed the positive impact of the changes in making the borough a greener place which avoided the large fines accompanying sending waste to landfill.The town hall strongly defended the new system as working well and said staff’s views were not ignored.

Paul Barton, director for environment, said: “Since the changes were brought in our recycling rate has increased from 43 per cent to more than 50 per cent, which is brilliant news for the environment. We want to thank residents for their support and for recycling more, recycling right as part of The Deal.

“We always knew there would be a bedding in period for three-weekly collections, as there would be for any major service change of this scale affecting 140,000 households, and we want to thank residents for their continuing support.

“Overall the changes have gone very smoothly and we are recycling more than ever, which does sometimes mean our recycling bins are heavier, however we do have robust contingency plans to deal with these situations

“With £160m taken from the council’s budget there are no easy decisions of how to save that money but The Deal is all about us working together to deliver local services in these challenging times.

“The changes to collections have boosted our recycling rate, we are sending less waste to costly landfill, we are on track to make our saving each year and we are all doing out bit to look after the environment.

“We take the views of our staff very seriously and will always work with them to understand their concerns and to listen to their ideas.

“We are currently in the middle of a large staff engagement exercise where we have encouraged all members of staff to have their say and we have been listening to what they have to say and recognise how passionate they are about their work within the council.

“We do appreciate the hard work they put in each week to carry out such an essential service for our residents and will continue to support them in their roles.”