A catalogue of health and safety breaches could see Cityclean vehicles pulled from the city’s streets, the GMB union warns today.
GMB Sussex says hundreds of jobs could be at threat because the city council has failed to accurately record basic requirements such as vehicle checks.
The council says “serious issues” were uncovered in recent months following a change of management at Cityclean, after which it discovered safety standards were not being met.
Last week, the city council approached GMB to ask for help in putting the department’s record keeping back on track after reporting the issues to the Traffic Commissioner, who has the power to withdraw Cityclean’s operating licence.
But the union says it fears its reps, who it says are already being targeted by management, are being set up to take the blame.
It is now calling for chief executive Geoff Raw and executive director of Economy, Environment and Culture Nick Hibberd to resign, saying it has lost confidence in their management.
Mark Turner, GMB Sussex branch secretary said: “In all my time and historical involvement with Cityclean, involving all the various management structures and personnel I have come in contact with, I’ve never seen such basic incompetence which has led us to having the threat of having the city’s operating licence withdrawn and the service shut before.
“In doing so they potentially have endangered the livelihoods of every employee working within the service and have only recently brought this to the attention of GMB because it appears they now require union reps and members’ assistance to get them out of a very deep hole with the Traffic Commissioners.
“It must be said that strangely those will of course be the same union reps the council require the assistance of now, who have come under increasing unfair scrutiny and unsanctioned investigatory and reporting processes, or to give it its real name management bullying by the council over recent months.”
One of the standards which have not been met is checking vehicle weights, which could result in heavy or overloaded trucks not being able to brake quickly enough in an emergency.
The GMB told Brighton and Hove News that the council appears to also have lost records of drivers’ own medical and competency checks.
A council spokesperson said: “We’re fully committed to working with the trade unions. Providing safe public services for the city is our number one shared priority.
“Over the last six months we’ve undertaken a number of initiatives to make Cityclean a fairer and safer place to work and have sought to involve unions wherever possible and where change has been needed.
“These initiatives are being led by the new assistant director of city environment [Rachel Chasseud] strongly supported by her director [Mr Hibberd] and the chief executive [Mr Raw].
“As a result of recent changes in senior management at Cityclean, some serious issues have been uncovered which have required urgent action. We reject any claims of inappropriate action or processes against staff.
“Through the work of one of our new Cityclean managers it was learned that the safety standards required by the Traffic Commissioner – the independent regulator of the commercial road transport industry – were not being met.
“The standards relate to the vehicles used by the City Environment service and statutory staff checks.
“As is our legal duty, we reported this immediately to the Traffic Commissioner and jointly we agreed the immediate actions needed to meet the expected standards.
“Thank you to all Cityclean staff who have worked quickly and collaboratively to improve safety and service reliability. This is an ongoing team effort.
“Our progress is being reported regularly to the Traffic Commissioner.”