Binmen took 18 days off sick on average on top of walkouts
BIRMINGHAM’S bin staff spent an average of 18 days each off sick last year – with claims some stayed home rather than cross strike picket lines.
The recorded sickness absence was on top of time taken out for the bitter dispute, which saw crews down tools on and off for several hours a day over three months. The waste management sickness absence figure is the highest of any council department in 2017.
The adult care and children’s services departments, which are traditionally the highest due to the stresses of working with vulnerable people, saw averages of just 11 days sickness absence. Details were revealed in a question at the monthly council meeting on Tuesday.
Council sources confirmed there was a high level of absence around the strike, not only among refuse workers, but management too.
“It was a bitter dispute, stress levels were high as a result. We also think some staff stayed away rather than cross picket lines,” the source said.
The council has long struggled to meet its target of an average 9.25 days of sickness absence a year, with more physically demanding work expected to have higher rates than desk jobs. In recent years it has introduced measures like offering flu jabs to staff to cut absence rates.
The average days off during 12 months to January 30, 2018 were: Waste management: 18.78 Education: 12.38 Children’s services: 11.12 Adult Care: 10.96 Housing: 10.88 Smaller departments ranged from 15.08 days in a section of the finance department to 2.34 days in planning.
For more than 222 days residents endured the prospect of their rubbish not being collected or their streets being piled high with bags.
Even though the dispute ended in November, payments are still being processed and costs have not yet been finalised.
According to a “high level legal assessment”, the bill is estimated at £1.6 million between July and the end of September, specifically for the extra contractors involved.
The unions and city council came to an agreement ending the dispute after the saga left a total £6.6 million hole in the local authority’s finances, which will have to be met from a rainy day fund.
> Bins were pile high as collections were missed