Workers to take campaign to streets

Discussions are ongoing about the outsourcing of bin collections in the borough.
Discussions are ongoing about the outsourcing of bin collections in the borough.

Refuse staff at Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council will be engaging with householders in the coming weeks as discussions over the proposed outsourcing of bin collections in the region continue.

Speaking on behalf of the three Unions, NIPSA, GMB and Unite, which represent workers in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Unite Regional Officer Michael Keenan, outlined their opposition to the outsourcing of bin collection services across the council area.

He said: “All three unions representing waste collection workers and staff at the council are united in our opposition to moves to outsource bin collection.

“Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council management propose to outsource black bin, general non-recyclable, waste collection in the former Newtownabbey council area and to outsource brown bin, compostable waste, collection in the former Antrim council area.

“As both recyclable and compostable waste are already outsourced in what was the former Newtownabbey council area – this proposal would mean that only in the former Antrim council area would blue and black bin collection remain in-house.

“Leaving aside our concerns over outsourcing of public services generally, the council’s approach is clearly poorly thought-through, rooted as it is on the old council demarcations.

“Our concerns have only been heightened by the failure of management to fully engage with unions and explain the rationale for the move – especially as it could open the door to bin charges in the future.”

Mr Keenan added: “Outsourcing these services will only achieve cost-savings through corner-cutting on service, health and safety protections and a race-to-the-bottom on workers’ pay and conditions.

“Management also appear deaf to the experience of householders in Newtownabbey who want to see bin collection brought back to the council where low-paid and rushed contract operators routinely fail to collect bins, leave them back in the wrong place, or lift them as late as nine o’clock in the evening!

“The unions have proposed an alternative three-weekly collection cycle which would keep the service in-house and result in genuine efficiencies and cost-savings through economies of scale and a natural fit with a three-bin system. Unfortunately, management saw fit to reject our proposal out-of-hand.

“Our members are now taking their campaign against outsourcing to the streets. We will be distributing a leaflet to householders in coming days and weeks. All three unions will then consider our next options in this fight.”

Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for the local authority said: “The proposal to outsource black bin collection in Newtownabbey and brown bin collection in Antrim has arisen because of the significant number of severance requests from operational staff, within the waste collection service.

“The council believes it has a duty to consider these applications carefully as it has done for posts in other areas of the organisation.

“If approved, this would enable those wanting to leave on severance to do so and it would deliver significant savings for ratepayers. The remaining waste collection services shall continue to be delivered by the council.

For staff, the council recently reiterated its policy position in relation to severance and outsourcing, that there will be no compulsory redundancies and no Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment (TUPE) transfers to the private sector. This is a corporate council policy which has the support of all the political parties.”

The council spokesperson added: “Since March 2017, management has been consulting with Trade Unions and staff on the council’s proposal to outsource the black bin collection in Newtownabbey and the brown bin collection in Antrim.

“The consultation period will end on September 30 2017, following two extensions to accommodate a Trade Union response. A report will be made to the council following any feedback from the consultation and a final decision will then be made.

“In real terms, for customers, these waste collection proposals will mean that their bin service will continue to operate as is currently does and there is therefore no need for public consultation.

“The council receives very few complaints, of the nature described, in relation to the current outsourced waste collection services that have been in place for some time.”