Glasgow’s streets are littered with rubbish as bin lorry staff are locked in a dispute with their bosses over the introduction of a new technology system. The workers claim that the tablet computer they have to use to record any problems on their route is causing more trouble than it solves. They also say that a pilot scheme to move bins from back courts to “hubs” on the street is attracting so much extra litter that they have to be emptied daily.
The tablet computer is supposed to help bin lorry drivers report any issues they encounter on their route, such as missing or overflowing bins, fly-tipping, or blocked access. However, the workers say that the system is not working properly and that there is no one on the other side to act on their reports. They also complain that the tablet distracts them from driving safely and that they have not been trained properly on how to use it.
Chris Mitchell, a GMB union leader, said: “The drivers can type in on their tablet there’s a bin missing but there’s no one on the other side to do anything about it. It doesn’t matter how much technology we have, technology doesn’t empty the bins and sweep the streets.”
Another source of frustration for the bin lorry staff is a trial scheme that has been implemented in Pollokshields, where bins have been moved from back courts to “hubs” on the street. The idea is to make it easier for the workers to collect the rubbish and to encourage recycling. However, the workers say that the hubs have become a magnet for so much trash that they have to be emptied every day, instead of every four days for refuse and every eight days for recycling as planned.
Mitchell said: “The new hubs have to be cleared every day. If they have to be emptied every day, they are not working.”
City centre clean-up
While Glasgow’s city centre was cleaned up for the cycling championships last month, many areas beyond the race routes are still suffering from the garbage crisis. On Friday, there were only seven people out cleaning Glasgow’s streets from Tradeston to Pollok. One of them was Craig McLean, 52, who had a black bag and a litter picker to fight the mounds of mess in the industrial area beside the Kingston Bridge.
“I don’t get round the whole area on my sheet,” he said. “I might get about half done. I can’t get on top of it.”
McLean, who has arthritis in both knees, said he can’t work on lorries anymore and has to do 27,000 steps a day picking up coffee cups and ginger bottles. He also said that his shifts have changed, meaning it now costs him £1000 a year to get to work.
He said: “All cleansing staff have problems with their bodies after years of bumping bins up and down tenement stairs. Some have to get taxis to start work at 7am on Sundays.”
Glasgow City Council said that they are aware of the issues raised by the bin lorry staff and that they are working to resolve them. They said that the tablet computer system is still in its early stages and that they are providing training and support for the workers. They also said that the hub scheme is being monitored and evaluated and that they are open to feedback from residents and staff.
A council spokesperson said: “We recognise there have been some teething problems with our new tablet system but we are confident these will be ironed out as we continue to roll it out across the city. The tablets are designed to improve our service by allowing us to respond more quickly and effectively to any issues reported by our staff or residents.”
They added: “The hub scheme is part of our efforts to increase recycling rates and reduce waste going to landfill. We are aware that some hubs have experienced higher levels of usage than expected and we are working to address this by increasing collections where necessary. We welcome any comments or suggestions from our staff and residents on how we can improve our service.”