Unite, the UK’s largest union, has called on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the lack of welfare facilities being provided to housing maintenance workers in Birmingham, who are directed by their employer to use toilets at McDonalds, Tesco and KFC.
The workers operate on outsourced contracts undertaking maintenance and repair work on Birmingham council’s housing stock.
Unite has obtained the advice given to maintenance workers operating on the Keepmoat contract in north Birmingham (Perry Barr, Kingstanding and Sutton Coldfield).
The workers are actively discouraged from using the company’s depot during working hours. No toilets are provided, instead workers are encouraged to use free toilets provided by Tesco, McDonalds, KFC, public toilets, or toilets in sheltered housing developments.
Despite the workforce undertaking often hot dirty work, washing facilities consist of the workforce being supplied with protective cream, hand cleaner, hand sanitizer and paper towels.
The only provision for workers being provided with a rest facility for their break is that they are told they are allowed to sit in the cab of their van.
An additional problem is that workers have their jobs sent to them on handheld Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and the jobs are scheduled without any scope to visit welfare facilities.
The facilities provided by Keepmoat are well below the standard set by the HSE in their welfare regulations. The HSE frequently prosecutes companies for providing inadequate welfare provisions.
While Unite has highlighted the poor welfare facilities of Keepmoat; Wates and Fortem (previously Wilmot Dixon Partnerships) who manage the other Birmingham housing maintenance contracts, also have woefully inadequate welfare arrangements.
The problem of housing maintenance workers is not simply confined to Birmingham as workers at other organisations across the west midlands face a similar lack of welfare facilities.
Unite regional officer Stuart Baker said: “Housing contractors in Birmingham are flouting welfare regulations. This is about the dignity of the workers and the lack of welfare facilities can cause long-term health problems.
“In the 21st century workers are entitled to expect to be provided with decent welfare provisions. Contractors can’t simply provide a map of McDonalds, some hand gel and a few paper towels and think that everything is hunky dory.
“Managers are more concerned with monitoring workers every move through trackers fitted in their vans, than providing their workforce with decent welfare facilities.
“The HSE has consistently said that it takes welfare regulations very seriously and now it has the opportunity to get involved and at least ensure these provisions are dramatically improved.
“These workers are operating on contracts tendered by Birmingham council. The council has a moral duty to ensure that welfare regulations are upheld and at the very least it must ensure that in future when contracts are tendered that bidders have to commit to ensuring welfare standards are met.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.