A union has called on local government employers to spell out how refuse service workers can safely provide an essential service while meeting social distancing requirements.

Frontline recycling and waste industry workers have been recognised by the Government as key workers, which means their services are considered essential.

However, the union GMB London has written to the Local Government Association (LGA) asking them to get clear guidelines from the Government for councils and contractors on how to implement the social distancing for staff in refuse services.

‘Despite the governments directive regarding social distancing and the lock down measures that came into effect yesterday evening, GMB have been advised that refuse crews are being instructed to carry on work as normal. This cannot be right,’ said GMB senior organiser, Keith Williams.

‘The effects of this is that employees are expected to go out in cabs that are inadequate for compliance with social distancing. Further, employees are not being provided with daily masks and anti-viral hand gel.’

‘GMB recognise the collection of refuse is essential in these times. In the light of this and to avoid any disruption of the service, GMB call on Local Government Association and local authorities to put immediate measures in place with their waste management service providers to protect the well-being and welfare of our members which recognise the immediate threat our members are facing,’ he continued.

‘Refuse is not a role that can be carried out at home. So refuse contractors and Local Authority Clients have a responsibility to minimise risk during this unprecedented pandemic.

‘It is essential that they should be working collaboratively with GMB to look at options to ensure that refuse workers are not taken for granted. They need to be shown the same level of respect and regard as all other local government and critical workers at this moment in time.’