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Sickness and absence and agency working…

14 September, 2018

Islington Town Hall

• AS the branch secretary for the GMB trade union, which represents staff working at Islington Council, I was appalled to read your report on levels of sickness and absence at Islington Council, (Town Hall to investigate staff sickness after budget overspend on agency staff, September 7).

The report is grossly one-sided and does not take account of the high-risk work that staff in environmental services undertake. Staff are more likely to suffer work-related injuries such as damage to their upper limbs and back due to manoeuvring bins that are sometimes located in difficult-to-reach locations or wheeled across uneven surfaces. Staff also suffer with strain injuries due to the repetitive nature of the work.

With regard to agency staff, the GMB has worked tirelessly to reduce the number of agency staff in the council as we want permanent, secure jobs for our members. The fact that the council has to use agency staff indicates that there are capacity issues. You cannot cut staffing to the bone and expect to be able to cover the work when staff are on holiday or off sick.

We have also worked with the employer to address drug and alcohol issues, but cases take an inordinate amount of time to progress which results in further costs as agency staff are used to cover when people have been suspended from work awaiting a disciplinary hearing. The number of cases is miniscule in the grand scheme of things, around 12 in the last 18 months.

The GMB is committed to working with Islington Council to address sickness absence issues as we want our members to be able to work in a safe environment and not suffer occupational injuries. It is not helpful that councillors are speculating about causes of sickness absence and it reads as though all sickness is alcohol-related.

We look forward to working with the council to put positive measures in place to reduce sickness absence and agency staff costs.

GMB Islington branch secretary


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