A trade union has accused Perth and Kinross Council of an “appalling” lack of empathy for its workers after a catalogue of safety breaches were revealed at a recycling depot hit by a tragic Covid-19 outbreak.
GMB Scotland has raised a collective grievance against the local authority after several contraventions of health and safety law were uncovered at the North Forr centre in Crieff.
The Health and Safety Executive launched an investigation at the site after concerns were raised by staff about a lack of coronavirus controls.
The inspection took place just days after one employee, binman Scott Hunter, died following an 18-day battle with the virus at Ninewells Hospital.
Two other staff were struck with the virus at the time, including one who was seriously ill in intensive care.
On Wednesday, The Courier revealed the findings of the HSE’s damning report.
Inspectors found that the three confirmed cases were not properly reported so that close contacts could be traced, while vehicles and offices were not deep cleaned – even after staff had tested positive.
Staff had no training on coronavirus controls, and pleas from employees for hand gel dispensers and one-way systems went ignored.
Now, GMB Scotland has raised a collective grievance over the HSE’s findings.
Organiser Vicki Leonard described the inspection report as “extremely damning” and said they backed up worries raised by GMB and its members since last year.
“We have had concerns over the health and safety of our members and raised them numerous times,” she said.
“We do not believe Perth and Kinross Council has done nearly enough to minimise the risk to health and safety in the workplace.
“The council do not seem to value these essential workers. After numerous attempts at trying to have these issues addressed, we had no other choice but to raise a collective grievance.
“In these current times more than ever, these employees should be protected and valued and this has just not happened.
“The lack of empathy for this group of workers is appalling.”
Ms Leonard said concerns raised by members including a lack of available PPE – “not that it wasn’t there, just not always readily available” – and issues over communication and Covid-19 information.
She said complaints about an absence of hand sanitisers outside buildings and one-way systems were “easy fixes”.
“Our concerns and the concerns of our members fell on deaf ears,” she said.
“The council are willing to work with us now, which we are more than happy to do, but it is a bit like locking the barn door after the horse has bolted.”
The council declined to comment directly on GMB Scotland’s statement, but said regarding the HSE inspection: “The safety of our staff is our priority and we take all practical measures to protect them from Covid-19.”
The council’s spokesman said the findings will be used to make improvements at the Crieff site, while there will be a further review of procedures and training.