A strike by workers for the Ghent waste management company Ivago continues today, as uncollected rubbish lines the streets, in a situation made worse by record high temperatures. The three unions concerned are striking over demands for reinforcements for collection rounds, a variable working timetable during periods of high temperatures, and a general lack of respect from the company towards its employees. The company’s latest proposed solution was rejected by all three unions.
The public, meanwhile, remains stoical – at least those interviewed for the VRT current affairs programme Terzake. “It’sa terrible job,” said one woman. “I think we should be grateful to those people for doing it, but I hope they find a solution soon. You can smell the problem. I hope we don’t end up with the kind of situation we saw in Naples a few years ago.”
The law states that Ivago workers may stop work half an hour earlier in temperatures over 25 degrees, and one hour earlier when the temperature tops 30 degrees. But unions are in dispute over the “thermometer” used by the company to calculate those limits.
Other complaints include the litre of water provided to each worker every morning for a full shift. Unions are demanding more, and chilled water at that. The sun cream provided has dropped from factor 50 to factor 30. “These are all small annoyances that mean the staff don’t feel they’re valued enough,” a union spokesperson said.
Unions also complain they are being asked to re-stat the pick-up of glass and paper, normally suspended in the summer to allow for staff on vacation, while continuing their normal collections without reinforcements.
Negotiations continue, but the chance is high that rubbish will still be lining the streets until later in the week. Householders, meanwhile, have been asked to keep their rubbish indoors, where it is unlikely to be more welcome.