Don’t blame the Barnet bin workers: You couldn’t make it up.
This time last year we were in the fourth week of the Bin Collection changes. Barnet UNISON bin workers already knew that the changes would not work. But it had been made very clear that the views of the workforce were not seen as important to the successful delivery of the service.
How wrong was that?
By Christmas 2018 the collection was in chaos as this is one of the busiest times of the year for Bin collections.
UNISON suggested a way out but we were ignored.
In 2019 bin workers were scratching their heads wondering where all the money was coming from to pay the ever growing army of agency workers. A service that started at 6 am and finished by 2pm was now running up until 11 pm at night.
But every time UNISON asked about the rounds we were told it’s just “teething problems” and “things will soon be sorted.”
In 2019, at various Council Committees, councillors started to try to get a grip of what was going on as the agency spend continued to climb and fall then climb again. Sitting in the stalls listening to officers and councillors was something to behold, hardly anything discussed seemed to reflect what our bin worker members were telling UNISON.
After years of representing workers in Barnet Council UNISON is used to being ignored but in the case of the bin service it was still astounding that no one seemed to be able to sort out what was all so apparent to the bin workers.
Then we had the “sliding depot” or the “crack” as it was called in the depot. UNISON watched in bewilderment as the crack got longer, wider and deeper. The road was so bad the vehicles had to drive really really slowly just in case they tipped over.
Obviously someone in the summer managed to convince the Council that there was a serious Health and Safety risk and that the idea of part of the depot sliding down on to Oakleigh Road South was suddenly unpalatable.
Here was an opportunity for the Council to put things right for Barnet residents. The depot is severely constrained by having half of it cordoned off for major building works that were bound to impact on the bin collection service.
“Here was an opportunity for Bin Collection change 2.0”
UNISON bin workers would say “Tear up the crazy area collection proposals” and organise meetings with the bin worker drivers who know the borough streets intimately to help sort out bin collection routes that will work.
UNISON seized on this opportunity to help; after all there was new management in after the departure of two senior managers. We hoped for a change. We said we would help get drivers to help sort the mess out.
More of the same. The recent changes to the bin collection service that have moved some rounds to a Saturday took place without consultation with drivers. Early feedback from our members is that things are not going as well as hoped and still the spend on agency continues.
Last week UNISON heard that staff were being pulled for not completing rounds.
Barnet UNISON has made it clear to the Council that they will countenance no blame on our members for being unable to make something that is fundamentally flawed work well for residents.
You couldn’t make this up but it is true.
With all the changes of managers and a depot that is falling apart our amazingly loyal bin workers on whom we all rely, still come into to do a difficult dirty job on low pay.
Don’t blame them for the changes – those decisions were made by others.