We’ve published a few posts on the disgraceful treatment refuse collectors working in Thurrock get from the council:
Below is a first hand account from a refuse collector on what it’s been like to work through 2020. After reading this, we hope you’ll join us in offering solidarity to the refuse collectors in their ongoing dispute with Thurrock Council…
This was first published in Tribune: 2020: A Workers’ Perspective and subsequently on Thurrock Nub News: Life on the bins front line with Trevor – one man’s reported view of what it’s like on our local collection wagons.
I get up at 3.30am look out the window, and it’s raining again. I have to get the train to Grays to meet the lorry – it’s a Sunday timetable because of Christmas. The lorry turns up just after 5.30am, and I’m glad because I’m freezing cold. It’s still raining when we arrive at 6am, and we’ve got 12-15 miles of walking. I’ve got blisters on my feet and my boots are still wet from yesterday (we only get one pair of boots because we’re agency workers, not staff). At some point I’ve got to phone the agency because I’ve been paid short again. It’s going to be difficult because we’ve got a big day ahead of us, and the driver moans at us if we use our phones.
Some bloke has just come over to us and started accusing us of deliberately missing his bin last week. He’s aggressive and shouts. I look in his bin and it’s contaminated with polystyrene, so we can’t take it on recycling. I tell him it’s contaminated and he doesn’t care – he just wants his bin emptied. He’s getting more aggressive, and the driver’s getting anxious because I’m holding the lorry up. I put the bloke’s bin on the lorry because I don’t want any aggro. He says if I leave the bin next week he’ll come and find me.
The other loader keeps coughing. I’m worried he’s got coronavirus. He’s also agency and we don’t get paid if we’re off sick. He smokes loads of fags so I hope that’s what it is. I can’t afford any time off because my girlfriend’s pregnant and we’re saving up to put a deposit on a flat.
I desperately need the toilet but there’s nowhere to go. All the places we usually go won’t let us in anymore because of the virus, so I’ll just have to hold it. An hour passes and I run into the bushes for a pee. I was busting. I hope no one saw me because I’d be laid off – it’s against the rules. I can see the driver looking for me in the mirrors: I’ve held the lorry up again, and he’s not happy.
We’re in a cul-de-sac and someone has parked their car in the way. We can’t get past. I put a postcard with a message about leaving room for dustcarts and fire engines under the wiper, as that’s what we have to do. A bloke comes out of a house and says to me, ‘What was that you put on my car?’ I explain to him that we can’t get through. He shouts that his car is broken down. I look at it – it’s brand new. He goes back in his house and slams the door. We have to leave the rest of the bins in that road because we can’t get past.
Half an hour later a car pulls up behind our lorry. There’s a man and a woman in it, and they’re staring at us. ‘Why did you miss our bin?’ I explain to her about the car blocking the road. She’s having none of it. She gets out of the car and starts pointing her finger in my face. ‘It better be empty when we get back.’ I say to her, ‘We’ll go back later but if that bloke’s car is still there, there’s nothing we can do.’ She calls me a lazy bastard and they drive off down the road.
My feet are killing me and we’re only half way through the round. We run into the shop and get a Red Bull and a bag of crisps. We don’t get time to stop for a break. We’re well behind, so the other loader tells us to step up the pace. We’ve still got miles to go. On our way we meet a lovely old lady. She’s assisted, so we help her with the bins. She always talks to us and today she gives us a packet of biscuits. It’s the highlight of the day.
We finally get done after six hours of non-stop running. It feels like twelve, and my feet are lead weights. The driver drops me at the station and I make way to the platform. I hope I don’t fall asleep on the train.