City council cleansing staff mental health ‘worst it’s ever been’

Trade union says levels of stress and anxiety among Glasgow workers have risen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

City council cleansing staff mental health ‘worst it’s ever been’ STV News
Rising Covid cases meant delays to bin collections in Glasgow over Christmas.

The mental health and wellbeing of Glasgow City Council cleansing staff is the “worst it’s ever been”, a union official has warned. 

GMB trade union convenor Chris Mitchell said levels of stress and anxiety among staff have risen because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which led to staff shortages just before Christmas. 

Rising Covid-19 cases meant delays to bin collections over Christmas and into the new year.

Mitchell said: “Mental health and wellbeing within the department throughout the pandemic is the worst I have seen – the fact no testing was ever given out to employees on a daily basis has made it worse. 

“Workers were also having to come to work and worry about loved ones with underlying health conditions which has also caused stress and  anxiety. 

“The GMB and the council are committed to providing employees with  professional support and look to do more open days on the effect of mental health issues in the workplace and provide as much support in this very difficult time.

“But what I will say as the convener of the cost of living crisis is that we have an energy and gas crisis that will no doubt put low paid workers into workplace poverty, causing  hardship for so many workers.”

It comes after the trade union revealed that the city’s cleansing staff felt under pressure over the festive season to carry out their duties due to the number of staff in isolation because of Covid-19.  

Mitchell said that so far the public had been generally supportive of the industry and workers had not faced any backlash from unhappy residents who didn’t have their bins collected on time.

Glasgow City Council confirmed positive Covid-19 tests had contributed to the delays along with other illnesses, staff on leave and the additional waste generated over Christmas. 

Over the last two years, cleansing staff have been working in workplace bubbles to limit personal contact as much as possible.

The council is now delivering lateral flow tests to distribute among all staff, including cleansing staff, so they can test before coming into work.

A new health and wellbeing group is also being created to see what more can be done to help staff.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “We fully recognise how challenging the Covid pandemic has been for staff throughout the council and greatly appreciate their efforts to maintain the services people rely upon.

“The health and well-being of our staff is an absolute priority and a wide range of measures have been implemented to protect staff in the workplace from the spread of the virus.

“Mental health issues are also taken very seriously and support is available for affected staff members, although we realise that it is not always easy to ask for help.

“To try and ensure staff get the assistance they need, a new health and well-being group has been established to identify what more can be done to support staff.

“The group will be co-chaired by a GMB representative and we look forward to working constructively with them on this crucial issue.”

Story by local democracy reporter Catherine Hunter