Zero tolerance policy launched on verbal and physical abuse of staff

Published 30th May 2018

A tough new zero tolerance policy is being launched by Sandwell Council and its waste partner Serco in a bid to reduce the increasing number of verbal or physical assaults by members of the public.

It follows news that there were 35 reported incidents in a 14-month period when binmen, street cleansing employees and operatives working at the tip were verbally or physically assaulted by members of the public. 

Incidents range from verbal abuse when collection vehicles are temporarily blocking the road while employees empty bins to actual physical abuse with items being thrown at crew members and workers being knocked down by drivers while working on the footpath.

One incident resulted in a prosecution for dangerous driving after a motorist drove into an operative who was at the rear of a refuse vehicle emptying a bin. 

Now the waste partnership and union representatives have warned that it will not hesitate to immediately report to the police any incidence of violence and aggression to employees. 

The police are increasingly taking these sorts of cases seriously and will prosecute where there is the evidence and public interest to do so.

Due to the increasing number of incidents, partners have come together including Sandwell Council, Serco and the unions GMB, Unison and Unite to agree a charter that outlines what behaviours are unacceptable and all employees will be trained to manage violence and aggression they experience in the workplace. 

Councillor David Hosell, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for highways and environment, said:  “The employees deliver a very valuable service to residents in the borough.

“The level of abuse they endure from members of the public is not acceptable and I urge the residents who do this to reconsider their behaviour. 

“It is not easy to manoeuvre large vehicles on busy roads and although we try to avoid extremely busy areas at peak times it is not always possible."

John Mason, contract general manager for Serco, added: “We have a duty to ensure that we carry out our services for residents in a safe way for everybody and we also have a duty to protect our employees whilst they carry out their work."

Gill Ogilvie, GMB regional organiser, and Darren James, GMB branch secretary, said: "The GMB is very pleased to have worked closely with Serco Sandwell Environmental Services." 

Tony Barnsley, branch secretary for Sandwell General UNISON Branch, added: “Staff do a brilliant job keeping Sandwell borough clear of rubbish. They deserve everyone’s thanks and praise, not abuse. UNISON welcomes the message from Serco that abuse of our hardworking members will not be tolerated.”

Brian Rickers, regional officer for Unite West Midlands, said: "Unite the Union are very pleased to have worked closely with Serco Sandwell Environmental Services. The implementation shows a real desire to protect our members from abuse whilst doing a very difficult job for the public of Sandwell.

"In implementing this policy, the employer and the union have proactively made a very clear statement to members of the public that any act of aggression towards our employees will not be tolerated. 

“Our members deserve not to be abused for undertaking their day to day jobs serving the people of Sandwell.”