Concern over verbal abuse of staff at tip

Councillor Geraint Thomas
Councillor Geraint Thomas

Concerns have been raised about people verbally abusing staff at the County Oak recycling centre.

In October, West Sussex County Council introduced charges for waste such as soil, hard-core, plasterboard, concrete, ceramics and tyres.

At a meeting of the East Crawley County Local Committee, which met on Wednesday (March 1), members were alerted to incidents of people venting their frustration with the changes on the staff.

Speaking during the Talk With Us open forum at the end of the meeting, Geraint Thomas, Labour borough councillor for Northgate, described a recent visit to the centre as “quite an involved process”.

He added: “I spoke to three members of staff there and it seemed to me that they are the meat in the sandwich.

“All three said they had had some particularly abusive interviews with members of the public. They were really quite upset. One said he had had no experience with dealing with the public before and the staff had had no training about how to go about their new roles.”

Mr Thomas said customers were getting “irritated and upset” due to the length of time it was taking them to dispose of their rubbish as staff checked each load – as well as the fact they now had to pay for certain items,

Councillor Bob Lanzer (Con, Maidenbower) pointed out that checks had been made even before the introduction of costs but added: “I’m concerned about any reference to staff being abused. It’s not acceptable.”

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said there had been “very few” incidents of verbal abuse since the new system was introduced, with most incidents taking place between the information point and the gate.

All staff at the recycling centre are employed or subcontracted by waste management company Viridor.

The spokesman said: “Viridor’s policy is to call police for all actual physical assaults or threats to staff and prosecute if relevant.”

Those working at the information point are fitted with body cameras to ensure any such incidents are captured.

The spokesman said of the staff: “They are trained in conflict management and communication skills. The main emphasis for staff is to avoid confrontation, which they do very well.

“Site staff have been coached to either call their site supervisor or information point officer if they feel a situation has the potential to escalate.”