Glasgow’s increasing rat problem has been accelerated by a reduction in the city’s bin collections, according to the staff who accused management of being “in denial” about the problem.
Shocking videos of rats jumping out of bins and running around the streets have been shot by workers over the last year, who admitted they filmed them to try and highlight the problem, which they said had also deteriorated as a result of lockdown.
It came as cleansing workers called for national strike action to support their demand for better pay and conditions, with condition at the city’s Polmadie Depot recently branded “shocking and shameful” by staff.
READ MORE: Video of rats scurrying from Glasgow bins being emptied sparks GMB call for action
Barry McAreary who is based in Shieldhall and has been a cleansing service driver for 26 years and John O’Connor who is based in Polmadie and has been in the role for 18 years explained how the problems they face with rats have worsened over the last decade.
They said the situation had become particularly bad as a result of lockdown and with the introduction of three weekly bin collections last year but Glasgow City Council says that unfortunately rats do exist in “urban environments” and that there are a wide range of safety measures in place to minimise risks.
The council also said it is in the process of investing in the cleansing operation and reviewing how depots work.
Both Mr McAreary and Mr O’Connor attended a GMB trade union meeting on Tuesday night to discuss potential strike action and urged cleansing workers across the country to stand in solidarity with Glasgow to ask COSLA for a 10% pay rise to help tackle the cost of living.
Mr O’Connor explained: “The pandemic didn’t help. Quite a lot of people are now working from home which creates more rubbish and rats in residential areas because restaurants and cafes in the city centre were closed. So they are coming into other areas of Glasgow.
“Rats have been a problem since day one. You shouldn’t be surprised to see a rat jump out at you from behind or from within a bin but it is still a shock when it does happen and you get the fright of your life.
“It is human nature to run from the situation. They go one way and we go another. I think the video we shared on Sunday really highlights what we are up against.”
His colleague Barry McAreary agreed that while there has always been a slight problem with rats in any street cleansing business, the problem has got significantly worse over the last 10 years, particularly during lockdown and the introduction of the three weekly bin collections.
He added: “The three weekly bin collection didn’t help matters much and it was brought in too soon. Rubbish in the green and brown bin which includes food waste went from being emptied once every two weeks to once every three weeks.
“There have been some members in my depot who have had to have a tetanus jab because they have been scratched by a rat.
“Management will say it’s only a scratch but that’s still an attack. If you are going to drop the frequency of the bin collections you are going to increase the amount of vermin in the area but management seem to be in denial about that.”
When asked if they supported strike action Mr O’Connor said he did and the offer from COSLA was insulting.
He said: “I fully support strike action. The two per cent pay increase from COSLA is an insult and I think every cleansing worker in Scotland deserves better. We will keep banging the drum and we will keep asking the other 31 local authorities in Scotland to help us.
“This is not a political move – we are a force to be reckoned with.”
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Speaking about the campaign GMB convenor Chris Mitchell said he wanted the workforce to send a message to the 31 other local authorities in Scotland to stand by Glasgow.
He said: “We are urging cleansing workers across the country to stand in solidarity with us and take the fight to COSLA. The cost of living crisis is going to cripple everyone if we don’t make a stand right away.
“We are going from one crisis into another but in every situation we still do our duty and we are proud to do that.
“I am calling on the rest of Scotland to stand with us and take the fight all the way.”
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said the local authority fully acknowledges the pressure currently on the cost of living.
He said: “However, pay negotiations for all local authority staff are managed through COSLA and the national collective bargaining process they have with the unions.
“As a council we are investing in our cleansing operation with additional money allocated for new staff for deep clean teams and environmental enforcement.
“New electric and hydrogen powered vehicles are beginning to be deployed throughout our operational services, including for our cleansing teams, as part of our plan to create a fleet of zero emissions vehicles.
“A review of our cleansing depots is also underway and it is anticipated this will lead to
significant investment in our facilities as part of a wider effort to improve the working environment for our staff.
“Unfortunately rats do exist in the urban environment but we have a wide range of safety procedures in place to ensure the risks faced by our staff are minimised as far as possible.”
COSLA was also approached for comment.