Agency worker bill tops £4.5m at Welsh council

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Swansea Council spent just over £4.5 million on agency workers last year, many of whom crewed bin lorries.

As of March this year the authority was using 161 agency workers through two agencies, but it said some of them worked for a day here and there to cover council staff shortages.

An audit committee meeting heard that 138 of them worked in Swansea’s waste, parks and cleansing departments.

It emerged later that 86 of the 161 had worked at the council – sometimes on and off – for more than 12 months.

The council’s agency worker policy says a business case must be completed for every post filled, that agency workers hired by the council for more than 12 weeks must be made aware they are entitled to equal treatment on basic working and employment conditions, and that, in principle, they should only be used for short-term cover.

Speaking at the June 30 committee meeting, Adrian Chard, human resources and organisational development manager, said: “In the majority of cases there is full compliance.”

The agency worker and human resources policies, he said, were being reviewed to ensure they complied with employment legalisation, the needs of the council and best practice.

Committee chairwoman Paula O’Connor said she wanted to know if the council was getting a “firm grip” on the use of agency workers in waste management, and what sickness levels were in that department.

Cllr Peter Black said he felt the agency worker policy should be reviewed as a matter of priority, given the use of workers for more than 12 months, although he acknowledged trade unions needed to be involved and that the coronavirus was making things more difficult.

Cllr Lesley Walton said she would rather that agency workers were paid holiday pay than the money go to agencies.

“This has been going on for quite a few years,” she said. “I think it needs a bit more urgent attention.”

Mr Chard said: “We fill the majority of vacancies with full-time or fixed-term contracts when we can.”

The 161 agency worker figure does not include supply teachers, but the £4.5 million total cost does include the cost of supply teachers.

After the meeting, a council spokesman said: “We use agency staff effectively within our waste management service to ensure we can keep recycling and refuse collections operating efficiently, covering sickness absence or annual leave taken by our permanent staff, and covering peaks in demand.

“Without these additional staff being available at very short notice, waste collections would be at risk of becoming disrupted.

“In recent years we have introduced a trainee waste officer programme and since 2018 have recruited over 40 staff into trainee or permanent roles, helping to reduce the reliance on agency staff.”



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