Those working on Dundee’s roads could be forced to work longer hours this winter if too many members of staff are off sick due to coronavirus.
At a meeting of Dundee City Council’s city development committee on Monday, councillors will be told there is a risk there will not be enough staff to complete the necessary gritting and snow-clearing in the bad weather because of potential coronavirus outbreaks.
Members of the public are now being warned this vital work could be delayed or not done at all if there is a shortage of staff, with pavements outside the city’s schools and essential shops not being cleared after an overnight snowfall until 9am the next morning.
The report also warns if there are no workers available at all roads in Dundee that are not classed as “priority one” would only be treated if mutual aid – where neighbouring councils assist one another – is available.
This comes after a quarter of staff in the road maintenance partnership, which is made up of staff from both the local authority and Tayside Contracts, were signed off work in March and April this year due to shielding or showing symptoms of Covid-19.
In a paper which will be presented at Monday’s meeting, it suggests shifts could be extended and HGV drivers could be drafted in to cover the work.
It says: “To accommodate absenteeism there is scope to reduce the number of rotas from three down to two.
“While undesirable, the service could reduce resources to operate with a single shift through with the use of scheduled rest periods to cover a short period of labour unavailability.
“In the scenario a single shift resource arrangement coincided with a prolonged continuous snowfall event, this could lead to exceeding drivers’ hours regulations, although this would be classified as a permitted emergency situation.
“The road maintenance partnership operates with a number of additional HGV drivers which could be utilised for winter maintenance duties if resource levels required to be supplemented in the event of a significant labour unavailability outbreak.
“[It also] has additional support for external contractors on standby which would be utilised if required.”
Every year the council needs to come up with a winter plan on how to deal with any bad weather between mid-November and the end of March, with roads in Dundee having to be pre-treated as a precaution 86 times last winter.
Helen Meldrum, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Covid-19 cannot be used as a reason to put any worker at risk.
“There are robust health and safety measures including the working time regulations which we would expect Tayside Contracts and Dundee City Council to continue to abide by.
“These measures must only be invoked in an extreme emergency, on a voluntary basis and not turn into business as usual.
“We will work with the employers to ensure our members and the public’s health and safety is at the forefront of everything they do.
“We would expect to be consulted on this matter as one of the recognised trade unions.”
The proposals will be discussed by the city development committee on Monday.