Bin­men took 18 days off sick on av­er­age on top of walk­outs

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

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

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