Trashing the concept of a public service

‘Customers’ are being asked to collude in the impoverishment of the men who collect their bins

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 12:01

The “customer” bit is itself a heap of linguistic trash. A service that was perfectly okay is now much more expensive and significantly worse. Instead of the €100 service charge, it now costs me €282. Have my taxes come down by the amount saved by the council ceasing to collect my bins? No, they’ve gone up – a lot. But at least I’m the customer now and the customer is all-powerful.

Garbage, of course. There have been weeks on end when the bins haven’t been collected. The requirement for the binmen to empty a bin every 20 seconds means the process has become much sloppier.

Curfew flouted

The 9pm curfew – after which it is supposedly illegal for my bins to be out on the footpath – has been flouted. I complained to Dublin City Council about this. Their reply: “I have contacted Greyhound again regarding your complaint. As they are a private company we do not have a role to play in improving their service.”

And now something much worse is happening. I am being asked to collude as a “customer” in the impoverishment of the men who collect my bins and their families. The destruction of a public service that maintained some level of decency has led to a no-holds-barred “competition”, in which rival waste companies compete for business.

Since bin-collection is bin-collection, the only basis on which they can compete is price. And since most of the costs are fixed, the only way to drive the price down is by driving up productivity, skimping on health and safety training and ruthlessly slashing wages. Hence, Greyhound issued an ultimatum to its workers to accept a savage pay cut from about €450 a week to €335.

This brutality affects those workers, of course, but it also affects the rest of us. We will end up subsidising Greyhound by paying family income supplement to some of those workers. But we’re also being forced to take part in the disgusting exploitation of fellow citizens. As a “customer”, I’m now being told that my market “choice” comes down to this: play my part in pushing workers and their families into poverty or bury my rubbish in the back garden.

A system for taking away waste now pipes the toxic sludge of economic abuse back into our households. In order to have my trash collected, I have to sort it properly: leave citizenship in the black bin, decency in the brown bin and morality out of it altogether.

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