Agenda item

Delivery of a Future "Best in Class" Refuse Collection Service for Coventry

Report of the Director of Streetscene and Regulatory Services


The City Council considered a report of the Director of Streetscene and Regulatory Services which reported on the delivery of a Future “Best in Class” refuse collection service for Coventry.


The City Council has a legal duty to collect and treat household waste as laid out in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Whilst the waste types collected are prescribed by national government, the method of treatment and the frequency of collection are matters for each local authority.


The collection of household waste is one of the most visible universal services provided by any local authority with a weekly transaction at every household. Coventry is no different, and it is therefore important that the residents of the city received a “best in class” waste collection and treatment service.


In order to continue to develop a “best in class” waste collection service, it was imperative that the City Council has a good quality trained workforce with appropriate terms and conditions of employment, reflecting a modern and responsive service delivering for the residents of Coventry.


The report sought to outline measures to be taken to develop a “best in class” waste collection service, how waste collection colleagues would be deployed to meet the evolving needs of Coventry Residents and how the terms and conditions on which colleagues are employed would support those aims. The report did not propose to change the method or frequency of domestic refuse collection in Coventry.


The City Council has, historically, operated an in-house waste collection service for household waste and recycling. The City Council also operates a household recycling collection service for the residents of Nuneaton and Bedworth on behalf of the Borough Council. The disposal and / or treatment of both commercial and domestic waste are managed on the City Council’s behalf by several subsidiary companies owned by the City Council. There is no proposal to change the existing arrangements for the disposal and / or treatment of domestic waste in Coventry. Nor is there any proposal to change the method or frequency of refuse collection for Coventry residents.


Since the cessation of the industrial action by waste HGV drivers in August 2022, the City Council has operated waste collections using a mixed workforce directly employed on City Council terms and conditions or employed by Tom White Waste on their terms and conditions. The City Council terms and conditions provide for the operation of “task and finish” for waste collection rounds, whilst Tom White Waste terms and conditions do not.  The use of task and finish means that the Council’s directly employed staff can finish their shift once a group of collection rounds have completed their assigned task (e.g. the collection of recyclable waste) and have returned to the depot. 


The use of Tom White Waste employees to assist in the delivery of the City Council’s domestic refuse collection service since the beginning of 2022 has provided many benefits to the service, not least through an overall change in culture to one that better serves the residents of Coventry. However, the current mixture of staff working on different terms and conditions, with one set of terms and conditions providing for the operation of “task and finish” reduces the flexibility to deliver a “best in class” service. For example, deploying resources effectively whilst working to two sets of terms and conditions is not conducive to delivering the best service for the residents of Coventry and is expensive to operate. It also hampers the service’s ability to be reactive to demand led service needs. The City Council is looking to modernise the service, and as part of this, it considers that change is best delivered by having a single directly employed workforce, with new terms and conditions providing for standardised and predictable working hours and the removal of “task and finish”.


Over the last six months, negotiations on the realignment of terms and conditions have taken place with the trade unions recognised by the City Council, namely: Unite, Unison and GMB. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts all parties, no agreement on a mechanism for change has been reached. In addition, there is currently no agreement on the single proposal from the three trade unions to move forward with the continued development of a “best in class” refuse collection service as outlined below.


Officers sought independent legal advice on a way forward to introduce new contractual arrangements, including a move away from “task and finish” so as to allow the City Council to continue to develop a “best in class” waste collection service. The following two options were considered to provide an equitable and legally compliant way forward.


Option 1 was to market test and outsource the waste collection service to a third party not owned by the City Council. Having robustly explored the feasibility of this, including the timescale to deliver this option; and given the potential increase in cost from an outsources waste collection service, the inevitable loss of direct control of a highly visible universal service, and the Council’s inability to achieve direct change to support the continued development of the service, this option was not recommended.


The second option was to modernise the service and establish standardised and predictable patterns of waste collections, a single set of terms and conditions for those working in waste collection be introduced without the use of “task and finish” system, via direct recruitment and changes to the contractual terms of existing employees.


This option would retain an in-house waste collection service, and, by virtue of that continued direct control, it would achieve the City Council’s aim of continuing to improve the service by delivering a change in terms and conditions, including a move away from “task and finish”. In support of this option, it was proposed that:


Vacant posts in the Council’s establishment which were currently being covered by Tom White Waste employees would be recruited to directly on new City Council terms and conditions. These new terms and conditions would not include continued use of “task and finish”.


Following collective consultation, existing employees on City Council terms and conditions would be offered the same terms and conditions as new starters. After collective consultation is concluded, and assuming that no new information comes to light as part of that process, any employee not agreeing to the variation of their terms and conditions would be given notice to terminate their existing contract of employment and offered re-engagement on the City Council’s new contract.


Once that process was concluded, the waste service would also look at rebalancing the rounds to ensure that work was being allocated effectively and in line with the capacity of the service


Allowing for both the consultation time, and contractual notice to be given (if required), this option could be delivered in less than nine months.


This was the preferred option, as it would retain control of the service, it would achieve a uniform set of terms and conditions, and would reach a conclusion sooner, which in turn would allow the progress to a “best in class” service to continue at a pace.


RESOLVED that the City Council notes the measures to be taken to create a modern and responsive waste collection service and the subsequent changes to terms and conditions upon which those operating in the service will be employed.

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