The news has shaken their colleagues at Serco in Milton Keynes, with some calling for a review of the waste contractors’ Covid safety procedures.
One worker said there is “hardly any social distancing” at the Milton Keynes depot, and that gloves and hand sanitiser are not provided unless requested.
And Milton Keynes Council has today (Weds) announced it will be urgently investigating allegations that Covid safety measures are not being fully followed at Serco.
In the meantime, the council has announced that collection of green bins – for food and garden waste – will be suspended until further notice across the whole of Milton Keynes, which has a population of over 260,000.
A Serco worker, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed: “We’re all worried sick we’ll catch Covid.
“There is hardly any social distancing at the depot and we have to ask for gloves and hand sanitiser – they’re not given out.”
The worker claimed that other depot staff who have been in contact with somebody carrying the virus are not self-isolating because they are too worried about losing pay.
The worker said: “They’re paid for the first two periods of self-isolating but not for anymore – so people are going in to work when they shouldn’t be because they can’t afford to lose the money.”
But a senior contract manager for Serco said that the safety of employees is their “first priority”, and insisted the company is taking “all appropriate measures” in line with government guidelines.
Meanwhile, a Milton Keynes council spokesman said: “Covid-19 has had a significant impact on us all, and in MK the cases are seriously high.
“As a result of reduced staffing, we’re suspending food and garden waste collections throughout MK from Thursday (January 14) until further notice.
“Our waste collection partner Serco has seen an increase of Covid-19 positive tests and staff requiring to isolate or shield.
“The situation is one that changes rapidly. In recent days nearly 40 per cent of the waste collections teams have been unavailable.
“So, to protect our core services we now need to prioritise collection of black and clear sacks.”
The spokesman added: “We appreciate this is an inconvenience to residents, and we are sorry for this.
“We will continue to do our best, with the support of our partners, to maintain services under difficult circumstances.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is a serious situation.
“As well as ensuring that protective measures are followed, we have arranged access for front line crew members to have rapid Covid-19 tests (with results known within an hour) to identify people who have the virus with no symptoms.
“Around one in three people with Covid-19 have no symptoms. These people can then isolate and break the chain of transmission.”
The Food and Garden Waste suspension will be reviewed weekly and the council will try to give as much notice as possible when the service restarts.
“In the meantime, please dispose of food waste into black bags and keep any green waste in your garden,” added the spokesman.
“MK’s tips remain open, although we do ask residents to consider whether any journey is essential, in light of the national lockdown.
“Black bag waste and clear recycling sacks will continue to be collected on your regular collection days.
“The waste collection pilot remains unaffected at this stage.
“We’re doing everything that we can to continue to provide essential services in these extreme circumstances and we thank you for continuing to support our crews as front-line key workers.”
And Mark Sturgeon, senior contract manager for Serco, said: “Sadly we have recently lost two of our colleagues on our Milton Keynes team to Covid-19.
“Our deepest condolences go out to their families and friends. Both colleagues worked as drivers on the contract but within separate teams.
“They will both be sorely missed by all who knew and worked with them.”
“I would like to reassure the local community that our first priority is the safety of all our employees.
“We are taking all appropriate measures in line with Government guidelines.
“In addition, our workplaces and activities are risk assessed and we carry out regular reviews to ensure the highest standards are maintained.”