SIPTU has called for a major review of waste collection and its return to control by the local authority sector following a Prime Time programme, broadcast last night (Monday, 18th June) which revealed widespread illegal practices within the industry.
SIPTU Public Administration and Community Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “The Prime Time programme on widespread illegal activities within the waste industry should serve as a wake-up call for the country. From the information revealed it is clear that Ireland is failing to meet the challenge to dispose of waste in a coherent and environmentally safe manner. What we have instead is a largely unregulated and environmentally dangerous industry.
“While the programme high-lighted some very serious and flagrant cases of illegal dumping it failed to examine the structural reasons why illegal practices are so endemic within the industry. These are due to the cut-throat nature of the business and a legacy of 30 years of privatisation which has led to some of the poorest terms and conditions for workers within the economy. Operators driven by the need for economic survival regularly circumvent the law and precariously employed workers do not feel in a position to report illegal practices.”
He added: “The long-term way to ensure the goal of a clean environment and to establish decent conditions for workers within the industry is to bring waste collection and disposal back within the control of the state and local authority sector.”
SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Regan, who represents waste collection workers employed by the Bord na Móna subsidiary, AES, in the midlands, said: “Initially, we are demanding an immediate review of the entire waste industry as well as the establishment of a Government led forum which would take into account the views of all the stakeholders including the public, workers, waste operators, employers and crucially the local authorities.
“A Sectoral Employment Order within the industry would be an important first step. This would ensure minimum pay and conditions for workers, including the operation of a pension scheme and sickness benefit. That workers in an industry which exposes them to hazardous situations and the risk of infection do not have adequate sickness benefit standards is completely unacceptable.”