Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has warned Bristol council that the decision to close the vast majority of public conveniences in the city, is denying workers access to toilets and has forced some to quit their jobs.

Toilets closed

Unite regional officer Malcolm Green recently provided a written statement to Bristol council’s communities scrutiny commission to discuss the contentious community toilet scheme, detailing Unite’s concerns with its failings. The scheme is controversial as it resulted in all Bristol’s public toilets being closed last year, as part of a money saving exercise.

Instead the scheme asks private businesses including: pubs, cafes, shops, etc to freely provide access to their toilets to non-customers.

Workers denied access to loos

However, Unite has found that this scheme is not effective for key workers who keep the city operating such as bus drivers, street cleaners and refuse collectors. Unite members report that the scheme is either not operating in areas where they need to use the facilities or they have been asked not to use the schemes’ due to their work clothes.

Bus drivers in the city are frequently required to work a five and half hour shift without access to a toilet during that time.

Council must take action

Unite is now calling on the council to take proper action to ensure that all companies providing services in the city including bus operators and waste management service are ensuring that their workers experience toilet dignity.

Workers are denied toilet dignity if they are not provided with a clean toilet with hot and cold running water (including mobile workers such as bus drivers, refuse collectors and lorry drivers) or workers are monitored or have to ask permission to use the toilet.

The lack of toilet provision and being forced to ‘hold on’ can have serious health consequences for workers.

Workers failed

Malcolm Green said: “Bristol’s toilet scheme is failing workers who keep the city of Bristol clean and moving. The council needs to take firm leadership to ensure these workers are not being routinely denied toilet dignity.

“The lack of toilet provision has resulted in workers with medical conditions being forced to quit their jobs.

“Workers report being humiliated when they are asked not to use the so-called community toilets due to their work clothes.

“In the 21st century it is not too much to ensure that workers are not denied toilet dignity at work.”


Notes to editors:

Further details on Unite’s toilet dignity campaign

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.

Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.