SHOCKED litter-picking volunteers were told by ‘aggressive’ council contractors ‘it’s people like you doing us out of work’.
Leam Trash Friends had organised three days clearing rubbish and cutting back shrubs in Leamington, Warwick and Whitnash with a team of volunteers from local businesses.
The group’s founder – who has remained anonymous since the group formed for fear of repercussions over the clearing of used drug needles – says he has a deal with Warwick District Council where contractors clear rubbish bags.
But when the two contractors arrived at the railway bridge on Prospect Road, just off Sydenham Drive, the volunteers were subjected to verbal abuse – witnessed by the Observer’s photographer who was with the team at the time.
Both contractors were swearing and one said to the volunteers: “It’s people like you doing us out of work.”
The founder of Trash Friends has been left upset by the experience, which happened on Wednesday (June 5) – World Environment Day, and also fell during Volunteers Week.
He said: “I’m very disheartened and upset to say the least. The contractors had been walking back and forth staring continuously at some of the volunteers and being aggressive.
“They were demanding our risk assessment and repeatedly refusing to remove the waste saying the council had told them not to.
“The council had agreed for them to collect the waste, even going to the extent of agreeing what would and wouldn’t be collected. I’m still in shock at their behaviour.
“I want to issue a heartfelt and sincere apology to the volunteers affected by the verbal abuse from council contract staff. It is not acceptable in any way shape or form. When people volunteer for us we must ensure we provide a safe, pleasant working environment for them to undertake work. Under no circumstances do we condone or accept the behaviour displayed.
“Secondly please accept our deepest apologies in advance if you are affected by the piles of waste awaiting collection. We are sorry for any inconvenience this causes.”
Warwick District Council says it is conducting an investigation following a complaint about the contractors.
A spokesman said: “Warwick District Council have been made aware of a complaint and an investigation with our contractors Veolia is currently under way.”
Leam Trash Friends – which has removed thousands of discarded drug needles and many knives from the district’s streets – says it is hoping to buy its own van so it does not have to rely on contractors in the future.
The founder added: “Our only option to continue is to purchase our own van otherwise works will be very very limited. This will enable us to collect the rubbish ourselves and take it to the tip.”
Visit www.gofundme.com/street-clearance to donate.
Warwick District Council has been approached for comment.