Keith Williams, a GMB trade union representative, joined Dagenham refuse workers on the picket line. He accused the council of violating a 28-year-old agreement by halving the time allowed for drivers to carry out safety checks on dust carts from 30 minutes to 15, meaning a £1,000 a year pay cut.
“You couldn’t afford to lose £1,000 a year – our members had no alternative but to strike,” he said.
“We’ve had this payment for 28 years and now the council is trying to knock out this 15-minute safety check figure.
“We don’t want to be out on strike – but we are not willing to lose £1,000 a year.
“It’s the democratic right of workers to take industrial action, we’ll keep it up as long as it takes.
“The council has to end this dispute but Twomey (cllr) and Rodwell (council leader) don’t want to get round the table.”
He said the council was guilty of breaching health and safety, and that 30 minutes is needed to carry out a full safety check.And as with most union justification, this turns out to be smellier than a five week old uncollected waste bin.
But on May 14, service manager for passenger transport James Braund, who teaches the check to drivers, invited the Post to see how long it takes.
“I’m at a disadvantage because I don’t work with these every day,” he said. “But I did carry out a check on a similar vehicle yesterday and probably do three a week.”
James completed the test, which involves checking oil, tyre tread, light operations and equipment, in just nine minutes and explained the process while doing so.Whoops! Back to Keith, to see if he has an answer:
But Keith said his check didn’t reflect the reality of the job.
“He’s not carrying the check out at 5am,” he said. “It’s dark when we carry out these checks and there’s about 15 queuing up to fill their tanks.”Gosh, will this turn out to be the truth th…
A council spokesman claims drivers are required to fill up at the end of a shift, to ensure vehicles are ready in the morning and refill queues are prevented.
He also said on-site lighting means checks can be carried out at any time of day.Quite. So quit your whinging, Keith!
And more to the point, why on earth has the council been granting overtime for safety checks anyway? Any normal job, these would be part of your day to day routine, not an ‘extra’ that you demand extra moolah for!
…group manager of direct services, Tony Ralph, insisted the council is not breaching health and safety.
“We are not asking any driver to take an unsafe vehicle out,” he said. “The pre-start check is overtime on top of 35 hour week. We want them to do the check and we’ll pay them for 15 minutes. If it takes longer we’re not asking them to not do it, we’re saying it goes into their normal working day.”As should have been the case all along.