WELCOME BONUS: Suez fines and bonuses
New bin lorry drivers in Somerset could be given a £1,000 welcome bonus – despite councillors calling on the company which pays them to be fined over missed collections.
The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) and its contractor Suez have struggled in light of the national lorry driver shortage, with garden waste collections being suspended and many neighbourhoods seeing either their waste or recycling collections missed.
In a bid to attract new drivers, Suez is offering a new financial incentive to anyone wishing to join on a full-time permanent contract.
But this comes as two county councillors have called for Suez to be fined over the missed collections, describing the company’s service as “a joke”.
Suez has a ten-year contract with the SWP worth £21M a year, which includes the rollout of the new Recycle More scheme, with refuse collections moving to once every three weeks and more items being recycled at the kerbside.
The Mendip and South Somerset districts have already begun receiving the new service, with the former Taunton Deane area being the focus of the next phase in late-September.
Sedgemoor and the former West Somerset area (now part of Somerset West and Taunton) won’t begin to enjoy the new collections until February 2022.
Councillor Neil Bloomfield – who represents the Martock division on Somerset County Council – said the new programme had been beset by problems and said Suez should be financially penalised for their shortcomings.
He said: “The mention of Suez conjours up various images from a failed military operation, and now to a failing waste and recycling collection service.
“Since Suez took over the SWP service it’s been beset with problems. On a daily basis huge numbers of missed collections across Somerset. Many people would be thrilled to even get a monthly collection as all forms of waste are being left at the road side.
“Suez say the problem is a national shortage of drivers and of course covid. Both these were present when the last lot [Kier] left and they were collecting more often.”
Mr Bloomfield said he had been “inundated with complaints” from his constituents, describing the service as “appalling” and calling on Suez to compensate its customers.
He added: “The missed collections and false promises are a joke. If they couldn’t do the job why take it on.
“I was against this change, where it seemed more about saving money than a good or even adequate service. I’m waiting on Suez MD Mike Green to explain how he intends to fix this.
“Suez are failing to deliver as promised, so they either sort it now or they should pay customers compensation out of their pocket.”
Councillor Josh Williams, who represents the Brympton division on the western side of Yeovil, added: “Its a daily stream of complaints. Some people have waited several weeks for a collection.
“The website gives inaccurate information and promises not to miss more than two collections in a row, which continues to happen. It really is time they got their act together.”
Suez announced on Tuesday morning (August 10) that it it would be offering a one-off £1,000 welcome bonus for professional large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers joining its workforce, payable after their probationary period has been passed.
To reduce the reliance of agency drivers, Suez is also funding training for its recycling loaders to become drivers, with more than 20 employees currently going through an intensive training course.
Suez contract director Matt Canning said: “Working in recycling keeps you fit and helps the environment. For those who want to develop their careers, there is plenty of scope to get on, such as the loader-to-driver courses.
“Our LGV drivers are working in Somerset, starting early but finishing early, with no overnight stays away from home. Our crews are part of the local community, providing an essential service in all weathers – it’s rewarding work.”
SWP managing director Mickey Green added: “The welcome bonus comes on top of a retention bonus for drivers, a weekly performance bonus for
all staff, and considerable efforts to recruit, retrain and retain drivers.
“These measures will take time to have impact, and we apologise to residents of Somerset for the ongoing service disruption.”
Somerset residents can apply to work for Suez by the following means:
- Visit www.suez.co.uk/en-gb/join-our-team-in-somerset (application forms available here)
- Email a CV and application form to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call 07970 724559 to discuss the different roles available
- Post a CV to Gary Shimmin, Suez UK, Colley Lane, Parrett Way, Bridgwater, TA6 5LB
Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter
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