Waste companies are calling on the UK Government to include those working for recycling and waste management firms to the list of essential workers who are exempt from self-isolating in the event of being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid app. This follows significant staffing shortages and has hit other sectors such as food retail and public transport resulting in empty supermarket shelves and cancelled bus and rail services. Across the sectors affected, there is a HGV driver shortage to the tune of over 100,000 drivers, according to the Road Haulage Association.
Throughout the pandemic, waste management companies have continued to service their clients and have played a vital part in keeping the public safe. However, the so-called ‘pingdemic’ has depleted services as they are deprived of drivers who have potentially come into contact with positive Covid-19 cases, despite many being fully vaccinated and continuing to test negative themselves. Combine this with the delay to HGV driving tests which has prevented newly qualified drivers from joining the workforce, and of course Brexit which has seen European drivers exit the UK in droves, and it’s easy to see how this shortage could rumble on for some time.
The Government has already made exceptions for air traffic controllers and railway signallers who have been pinged and they can now leave isolation for work purposes in certain circumstances. To qualify, these workers must be double vaccinated and past the initial 14 days after the second dose.
Disruption to Waste Services
The recent staffing crisis has caused significant disruption to waste services across the UK, and in some cases, led to a reduction in the frequency of waste collections, mostly affecting green waste. Derbyshire Dales District Council is suffering from staffing shortages and has announced that they will temporarily stop some waste collections as a result while Reading, Coventry and Liverpool councils are suspending green waste collections for two weeks.
Steve Longdon, Operations Director of FCC Environment said:
“We are working closely with our clients at a local level to ensure services are delivered but we are having to remain adaptable and review this on an almost daily basis.”
“In this respect we are grateful for the flexibility, experience and commitment of our staff, some of whom have had to step back into driving roles to ensure services are delivered.”
Jacob Hayler, Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, has joined the call to Government to rethink the list of critical workers:
“The waste and recycling industry provides vital services that are critical to the economy while, at the same time, protecting public health and the environment. Like the exemptions being considered for other sectors, we feel that our fully vaccinated essential workers should be able to leave isolation to help keep waste facilities running and to stop rubbish piling up on the streets.”
Meanwhile, the Government has granted a temporary extension to the number of hours a driver can spend behind the wheel and that, for now, seems to be the only solution on the cards.
There has been an update to this topic. Read the follow up article here.