Unite, the UK’s largest union, has called on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate the provision of welfare facilities to out-and-about maintenance workers.
Unite has obtained the advice given to housing 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. Instead they 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 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 issue being raised by the union is that workers have their jobs sent to them on handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) devices and the jobs are scheduled without any scope for loo breaks.
Unite says that the facilities provided by Keepmoat are well below the standard set by the HSE in their welfare regulations.
Unite says that Wates and Fortem (previously Wilmot Dixon Partnerships), who manage the other Birmingham housing maintenance contracts, also have inadequate welfare arrangements.
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.”