Burch talks tough on trash

  • Messy business: Minister of Public Works Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch addresses trash pick-up at a press conference today (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Trash builds up in the Whale Bay area (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Heads could roll over a failure to fill five vacant garbage collection jobs, the Minister of Public Works warned yesterday.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that five new waste management staff approved in September were never recruited.

He said: “I’m sure you can imagine my frustration and anger at learning only recently that some four months later, that decision had not been acted upon.

“Rest assured we are investigating to ascertain the reason for this inordinate delay and the necessary corrective and/or disciplinary measures will be taken.”

Colonel Burch was speaking after he confirmed that the island-wide garbage collection crisis would not be fixed this week.

But he said that the five vacancies would be filled “immediately” from on-file applicants.

He added: “That review has commenced this morning with a view to fast-tracking the actual hiring.”

But Colonel Burch warned: “The bottom line is that things will not get better this week.”

He said there had been “an ever-increasing challenge” with staff and vehicles.

Colonel Burch explained: “A section that should have 54 staff and 19 serviceable vehicles has 40 staff and nine working vehicles, on average.”

He said: “Clearly this is not a situation that was created in the past six months.”

Colonel Burch added that last Friday — when collection was cancelled in the East End — 40 per cent of staff were “unavailable due to vacation, short and long-term illness and injuries”.

He was speaking a day after Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said that garbage collectors had been on a work-to-rule since last Friday.

Mr Furbert said industrial action was taken amid worker concerns over the lack of staffing and trash trucks.

According to the Ministry of Public Works, workers have continued collecting trash but are not working overtime.

Colonel Burch added that a previous early retirement offer, a hiring freeze, poor planning and budget reductions had all contributed to the collection problem.

He added that any need for more staff to bring the numbers up to 54 would be monitored.

Colonel Burch said overtime for mechanics had been approved last week to try and get broken-down trucks back on the road.

The minister met Mr Furbert yesterday in an attempt to resolve the work-to-rule.

He said: “We are optimistic that the issues can be resolved by the end of this week.”

Colonel Burch said he would look at the short-term use of private collection trucks to deal with piled-up trash.

But he added: “Obviously, there are ramifications. One of the challenges with doing that, is that you have to get union buy-in.”

Colonel Burch said people should “take some pride in our own neighbourhoods” in the meantime.

He explained: “We as a people — all of us — must do better.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to remind the general public to be more aware of what they put in their trash and always remember that the collection is made by hard-working staff that deserve respect.”