Council chief praises Hackney bin collectors doing vital work during coronavirus pandemic

Hackney refuse collectors Glen Whitby, Kelly Edmondson, Nico Cote, Alex Ruddiman. Picture: Dieter Pe

Hackney refuse collectors Glen Whitby, Kelly Edmondson, Nico Cote, Alex Ruddiman. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Absenteeism in Hackney’s waste services during the coronavirus pandemic is both lower than the national average and lower than the borough itself would usually expect.

The news has prompted Cllr Jon Burke, who leads on waste, to speak out in pride at the key workers risking their safety on the front line.

People across the country have fashioned their own tributes to bin workers continuing to provide the essential service, in the form of handwritten notes or early morning applause.

This month it was reported a quarter of local waste teams have lost up to 40 per cent of their staff to illness or self-isolating, according to a survey of 250 local authorities by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport.

In Hackney that figure currently sits at 11 per cent, with projections the service will continue delivering at pre-coronavirus levels for the coming weeks.

Cllr Burke pointed out that, when taking into account staff who would otherwise be in work but are forced to stay away due to Covid-related circumstances, the absenteeism rate would be even lower, and lower than Hackney would be seeing pre-coronavirus.

He said: “I’m speculating that what enables us to keep working at this level is that we have a fully insourced service that identifies very strongly, not just with the job they do, but the borough in which they operate. The sense of pride that our waste operatives have in their work is hugely important.

Most Read

“One of the things about coronavirus is that it has indisputably settled some longstanding political arguments about what the most important work is in society.

“As a socialist, I might take this view ideologically, that nurses, streetsweepers and hospital cleaners like my mum are very important, but a society that is obsessed with markets has not remunerated people in that way. That’s been an ongoing dispute, of who gets the most from the distribution of the rewards in our country and why they get the most.

“The argument that CEOs of FTSE 100 companies have been able to acquire the highest level of income for themselves based on their abilities has been exploded, not by me. That’s not an argument that’s been won by people on the left, it’s been won by coronavirus.”

For the latest coronavirus news from across north London join our Facebook group here. Click here for our directory of support groups for people in Hackney.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter