'They've done a fantastic job': UNISON and Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery hit back at social media criticism of binmen

Council chiefs and a trade union have hit back at social media criticism of local binmen, lauding them as the unsung heroes of the pandemic.

Wednesday, 17th February 2021, 8:45 am

Waste collectors have doubled up as gritter workers and snow shovellers during the recent spell of wintry weather, besides carrying on with their usual day jobs.

The leader of Wakefield Council said on Tuesday that criticism of staff from some members of the public was unfair and "inappropriate", given their workloads.

The local authority says the vast majority of bin rounds were completed on time in recent weeks despite the snow and ice.

Unsung heroes? Binmen have carried on working throughout the pandemic. Getty picture taken in Northampton.

UNISON, which represents refuse collectors in the district, said staff had worked "extended hours" since the start of January, with many having been deployed to clear snow from outside Covid vaccination centres.

The union's Wakefield district branch secretary Sam Greenwood said: "During the Covid crisis we've seen doctors, nurses and care workers being applauded for their work and quite rightly so.

"But bin workers are the ones who aren't talked about.

"The job they do keeping our streets hygienic, safe and free of rubbish is crucial.

UNISON said binmen had had to put themselves at greater risk of infection by handling household waste.

"People who criticise them need to remember they've been at the frontline throughout this crisis.

Mr Greenwood said that binmen will typically walk 18 miles a day and repeatedly lift bins weighing between 10 and 15kg across an eight hour shift.

He added: "Their job has got more challenging and riskier during the pandemic.

"Because people have been working at home, they're producing more waste and so the bins are heavier.

"Handling household waste puts them at greater risk of infection.

"Because of social distancing, many have had to walk behind their vehicles for longer, rather than have three of them sit in the front cab as they would normally.

"During snowy weather they have to be much more careful on the roads and they're putting themselves at risk by driving through those conditions.

"They have to be very physically fit and they've done a fantastic job."

UNISON's comments followed similar sentiments from the leader Wakefield Council, Denise Jeffery, on Tuesday.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting as the council signed off on plans to hire more binmen, Coun Jeffery said: "I'd like to thank all our staff who've been working so hard.

"The thing that surprises me is that some members of the public don't appreciate that the men who are doing the bin rounds during the day are the same who are working on the gritters during the night.

"The comments we've had on social media criticising our workforce are inappropriate when you think that some of them are going without sleep."

Praise for bin workers may have been in short supply during the pandemic, though a heartwarming poem of thanks did come to light in Horbury last April after the first lockdown kicked in.

A note left out by a family-of-four in the town described binmen as "heroes who wear hi-vis" and thanked them for their service.

Local Democracy Reporting Service