Trade union slams working arrangements at recycling depot after coronavirus case

A trade union has insisted working arrangements at a council recycling plant have left staff feeling like “sitting ducks” as coronavirus infections surge across Renfrewshire.

Following an outbreak of the disease at the Underwood Road depot in Paisley last September, another positive case was confirmed at the site this week and a test and protect operation is now underway.

Kirsten Muat, organising assistant for GMB in Renfrewshire, has said there is now “clear fear and anxiety” amongst employees about working at the busy site.

The union – which represents a portion of workers at Underwood Road – raised a formal grievance with the council last year over its apparent failure to communicate with staff over health and safety risks at the depot after six workers contracted the virus.

Ms Muat has now urged the council to make sure strict protocols are being followed to avoid further threats to workers’ well-being.

She said: “There is a significant workplace health and safety challenge with the Underwood Road depot.

“We are in the grip of a more transmissible Covid-19 second wave and you have hundreds of employees across multiple services and a busy public recycling centre concentrated in one area.

“We have previously raised grievances over incidences of Covid-19 infections and isolations stemming from Underwood Road, and there is clear anxiety and fear among our members the current working arrangements leave them and their families like sitting ducks.

“Safety is the absolute priority, both now and in the difficult weeks, and possibly months, ahead of us. The council must ensure that every measure is taken to protect the well-being of the workers delivering the services we all rely on.”

GMB has said its main concerns are the number of staff working at the site, the accompanying “inadequate” welfare facilities and staff allegedly only being given the “bare minimum” amount of personal protective equipment (PPE).

The union said last September a survey of its members at the site revealed 94 per cent believed not enough was being done to protect them at work, while 89 per cent said the council had not clearly communicated what they should do after cases were confirmed.

Ms Muat said staff were told about the new positive case on Sunday evening “through the correct channels” after finding out about the previous outbreak through workplace chat.

Renfrewshire Council said all health and safety procedures have been followed in liaison with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde following confirmation of positive cases at the site.

Bosses also insist there has been sufficient PPE in place at all times, including cleaning wipes for vehicles. Any vehicles involved in a positive case are removed from the fleet and professionally deep cleaned if required.

A council spokesman said: “The health and well-being of our staff is our highest priority and we have strict health and safety measures in place in all council workplaces to ensure they can carry out their roles safely, including one-way systems, limits on staff in enclosed areas, screens to separate staff and sanitised keys and equipment.

“Staff should follow these protocols and our Covid safe working practices at all times and we continually review the measures in place to ensure they remain effective.

“If a staff member has concerns at any time, they should contact their line manager and these will be resolved at the earliest opportunity.”

Daily Record – Paisley