Not Going Away

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From top: Protesters outside South Dublin County Council in Tallaght yesterday and Independents 4 Change TD Joan Collins

Joan Collins writes:

How have we, as a society, reached the point where nine of the country’s largest waste firms have re-registered their Irish companies as unlimited, meaning they no longer have to file their public accounts?

Seven of those have also created ownership structures involving offshore locations that hide their financial affairs behind an impenetrable veil of secrecy.

So when these companies and their apologists come on the airwaves and say they are losing money, how do we know? Will they open their real books to the public?

If (highly unlikely) they are losing money and they cannot provide the most basic service a country needs, the Government should take back the control of our waste collection and disposal in its entirety using best practice in other European countries where, in many cases, people receive financial incentives to re-use and recycle.

When Alan Kelly introduced the statutory instrument (secondary legislation) of the waste service legislation and set a mandatory minimum price of 11c per kilo black bin lift and 6c per kilo brown bin lift, under the “polluter pays” principle (the less landfill a household disposes of the less a household pays), surely he knew the waste companies would use the opportunity to ensure their profits (if we knew what they were) would be protected.

Enda Kenny, in his reply to me during Leaders’ Questions last week, stated that 87% of households would be paying less under the new charges and that, in the “spirit” of recycling, companies would compete and bring down their prices.

You would wonder what planet Mr Kenny lives on, these private monopolies do not have a good reputation in providing cheap and cheerful waste collection services.

Myself, Cllr Pat Dunne and other activists supported the locked out Greyhound workers in June 2014.

Over 80 men, many who carried their pay and conditions under TUPE, were locked out of their jobs when they would not accept the draconian cuts in their pay and conditions. We ended up in the courts because we disrupted the Buckley brothers’ collection service.

They had no problem in spending big money in seeking injunctions in the courts and bringing activists to the courts as well.

Many of these workers were replaced by agency workers on much lower wages and conditions.

The Buckley brothers, at the time, said they had to bring their costs down. When myself and Clare Daly raised the issue of health and safety and working conditions at the time the then Minister for jobs, Richard Bruton stated that he would request the labour court to investigate it.

We will continue to pursue this.

Competition has increased the waste charges exorbitantly. 11c per kilo for the black bin has turned into 35c with Greyhound, 35c with Thornton’s and 27c plus a pick-up charge of €3.20 with Panda. 6c per kilo for the brown bin has turned into 23c with Greyhound, 20c with Thornton’s and 16c plus a pick-up charge of €2.56 with Panda.

These companies have hiked up their annual service charge from €59.95 to €169 with Greyhound, from €50 to €104 with Thornton’s and Panda has increased it up to €86. There is also a charge of €40 to switch your collector from Greyhound to Thornton’s.

For low income families, people who are ill, those who need to use incontinent nappies and the elderly will see hikes of 75% to 200%. For example, a woman, who is a carer for her 89-year-old Mum who has Alzheimer’s calculated that her annual bin charges will soar from €274.80 to €497.50 for the same number of lifts: she stated the new system “is an absolute disaster, Mum used to get the waiver, our black bin is largely full of Mum’s pull-ups (diapers) and they weigh a lot”.

That is an increase of €4.28 per week. From many examples that I have received from households using Greyhound and Panda, when you do the maths, it works out more.

So, competition is increasing the charges. The “recovery” means more of the same austerity for the majority of people while wealthy families continue to protect their wealth.

It was announced this morning that private waste companies have agreed to a 12-month freeze on current bin charge rates. 

But how did we get here?

Between 1995 and 2001 many of the TDs currently in the Dáil were on councils all over the country and implemented the FF/Green policy of privatising their waste services. They handed over the most fundamental and necessary service in society, the collection and disposal of waste, to private companies.

When the four councils in Dublin, in 2001, brought in a charge for the collection of waste, the Campaign Against the Bin Tax was initiated. The greater Dublin area, DCC, Cork and Galway were the last of the councils to bring the charges in.

The councils brought in waivers for households who received social welfare payments, Local Authority flat complexes were excluded (a year after the collection was privatised these exemptions were gone). A divide and conquer strategy by the councils ensued.

Many households refused to pay and joined the boycott campaign, in the knowledge that if/when the councils had a compliant level of payment the service would become lucrative to tender to private companies.

There wasn’t a mass resistance but there was a sizeable boycott campaign, particularly in working class areas. A membership card was produced and households paid an annual membership fee (to represent people in court cases).

The councils pursued non-payers through the courts, the campaign challenged the waste legislation, one of the campaign members from Crumlin went to the Supreme Court.

We lost, not on the principle, but on the basis that the legislation should have been challenged through the courts within a specific period from the introduction of the legislation but we were outside of that time period.

When the council stopped collecting waste from non-payers, a campaign of householders throwing their own waste into the trucks began, appeals were made to the workers, many who were not paying either, but their unions SIPTU and IMPACT did not support the boycott.

I took a half day every day, from my holidays, for two weeks to head out at 6.30am with the trucks and demonstrated that we could throw our waste into the trucks.

The councils went to the courts and got an injunction that non-workers could not interfere with the trucks. We could walk beside them but not “interfere” with them. The councils did not implement the injunction unilaterally but strategically picked areas to impose it to break the campaign. People began blocking the trucks demanding they pick up bins.

Hundreds of names were taken by the guards and 24 people were jailed from all over the city. Mass demonstrations took place supporting the jailed activists.

In the Dublin 12 area householders took the decision to meet on Saturday mornings to bring their waste down to Davitt Road waste depot and leave it at the gates in protest.

Again the guards were called to stop “illegal dumping” as the council claimed. Again people, including myself, were done under the Litter Act.

As a testament to the deep and strong objection to the non-collection of our waste, 10 years on, people still meet every Saturday at 11am to dispose of their waste in an organised fashion at the depot. I attend these protests every week.

Today we see the outcome of the Government’s action against the huge resistance to the privatisation of our waste services. Many of these companies moved their accounts to the Isle of Man, the British Virgin Islands and New Zealand just before or just after they won the tenders from the local authorities.

That is why I made the point in the Dáil that a cartel was being run by the waste companies. I listened intently to Michael Kilcoyne, a representative from the Consumer Association of Ireland on the radio last Friday.

His words were bang on when he made clear that the same parties and TDs, now so vocal on the issue, were the same who voted and supported our services being privatised. His position is that this day was inevitable.

I warned Enda Kenny that the last time practically every household was visited by an austerity charge, it was the water charges and that his Government will be met with the same resistance if his Government does not, for the moment:

  • Set the minimum charge as a maximum charge.
  • Set annual charges to stay in line with the consumer price index
  • Set waivers for social welfare recipients and low income families
  • In the meantime set up a commission of investigation into the waste industry and for local authorities to get back into waste collection and disposal

Joan Collins is an Independents 4 Change TD for Dublin South-Central.

Earlier: Resolving The Bin Charges Debacle

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32 thoughts on “Not Going Away

  1. Turgenev

    Forecast: people will wait tensely until the prices go up, then leave their bin companies en masse, and… dispose of… their rubbish however else… Chaos ensues.

    1. Andy

      Revised Forecast:

      Most people will not care about an extra few hundred quid and will continue to use their bins as normal.

  2. Junkface

    These new bin charges are way worse than anything proposed by Irish water. There should be a national boycott when it happens. There’s no reason for the huge price hikes.

    At least there’s an effort to improve the crumbling water system, which is sorely needed now

  3. DubLoony

    Blood boliing here.
    Joan, Dublin City Council had a perfectly efficient waste collection in place some years ago.
    People who worked on it had good terms & conditions.
    There was a waiver system in place for pensioners / unwaged/ carers so that the cases you cite above wouldn’t arise.
    If people produce waste, they pay for it. If they produce less waste, the pay less. It was that simple.
    Waste was re-cycled instead of going to landfill. A good solid solution all round.

    Your addiction to perptetual protest single handedly screwed it up.
    People are dumping rubbish around the area, the waiver system is gone, private companies tripping over themselves with workers who are on much more incecure terms or employment.

    Stop blaming everyone for your own actions and take responsibility for the situaiton you created.

      1. D'El Boy

        +35c/kg

        People like this amadan really make me mad and the fact that both the Dáil and indeed government is stuffed to the brim with this kind of pig farmer peasant minded moron being feted on my dime is INFURIATING. We all know the clowns in that poster not only won’t pay, they never pay -!: and likely as not have never been in paid employment in their lives. Fupping arseholes! Go fly tip your excrement like you ALWAYS do!

        1. Derek Byrne

          If you are so confident in what you say , why hide behind a fake name ?
          Nothing worst than cowards

    1. Westbrit

      Joan and her perpetual protester followers signed the death warrant for Council refuse collection with their “free for me, someone else will pay” activism. Unionised well paid tax paying workers lost their positions because her and her ilk wouldn’t pay a reasonable fee to the council. Now she bemoans the fact that offshore registered companies paying a pittance have replaced them and she wants local authorities to collect her rubbish again. Short sited populism at its worst

  4. Junkface

    Privatisiation ruins everything! When does it ever give a fair deal for services? Never!

  5. Jake38

    “………while wealthy families continue to protect their wealth.”

    Damn right. That’s what “their” means. It’s different to “your”.

      1. 15 cent

        @some old queen .. yep, pretty much. Alan Kelly idea of course. He’s always scheming for ways to financially break the population. I think Phil Hogan has a bit to answer for too on this one.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      Privatisation of public services does not create any wealth, it just transfers it from the bottom to the top. Neoliberalism really does need idiots like yourself to succeed.

  6. Painkiller

    there is a lot of talk about class here, and while I appreciate that Joan Collins represents people and concerns, water charges and refuse charges were ushered in as environmental taxes, so whether they decide to account for income bracket in deciding how much people should pay, everyone should be encouraged to think about waste with regards to these and nobody should be exempt in that. once you blur those lines, it ceases to be an environmental tax and is destined to be politically unpopular/short-lived and ultimately ineffective in bringing about a policy that has environmental sustainability at the core…a bit like Big Phil himself.

    the above point doesn’t reflect on the shameful manner in which govt tends to go about managing these…which is something Joan brought across very clearly.

    1. Painkiller

      1. Set the minimum charge as a maximum charge.
      3. Set waivers for social welfare recipients and low income families

      ..these two suggestions in particular suggest that Joan Collins has given little thought to the principle of charging for waste.

  7. Kieran NYC

    People like Joan play into the attitude that the certain segments of society are exempt from having to care about the environment – that it’s someone else’s job to contribute to maintaining the water infrastructure, to keep things tidy and look after the environment. Someone Else’s Problem.

    That attitude pervades into everything from fly-tipping to young scrotes vandalising everything they can and littering ‘because it keeps the street cleaners in work’. They’re given no responsibility over their own local environment (let alone the national one) and so have no respect for it. We all know where the litter black-spots are.

    Or will we ever see Joan do something positive and proactive for a change and maybe organize tidy towns/community schemes where she gets people to go out and pick up litter each weekend? Doubt it somehow.

    1. nellyb

      I take it you didn’t live in Joan’s constituency. Lots of them ‘young scrotes’ (my former Crumlin neighbors, men and women alike) get up at 6 in the morning to go to work, pay childminders to babysit, organize great childrens birthday parties indiscriminate of economic class and, yes, sweep the footpath in the front of the houses. And keep an eye on neighbors houses when they go on hols. So, please climb down your ignorant hill now.
      I believe proportionally there is equal amount of scum in any economic class, just a different type of scuminess. And comparing an outstanding specimens of one class with the lowest of the other is…. not smart.

    2. 15 cent

      whats that got to do with everyone getting saddled with double waste bills than normal for the exact same service?

      1. Painkiller

        I would assume he’s talking about where she’s coming from with her proposals – and the fact that she appears to fundamentally believe that people of less means should be exempt from paying an environmental tax. It’s a staunch and insular view to hold and does not show any understanding of what an environmental tax is supposed to achieve…at least the theory of what it is supposed to achieve.

  8. Owen O'F

    I see the narrative has now changed to “The government/councils should have been doing it all along, but I had a problem with it the first time because it wasn’t pay-by-weight.”

    So now we’re stuck with the gangster cartel companies. Unfortunately now we do need more protests against these guys, even if you disagree with the motives and history of those doing the protesting.

    The bin companies’ main line is: charges for you may have gone up, but they’ve gone down so much for many others that we’ve no choice but to fix prices where they are. If they were to release anonymised aggregated customer usage data for one year, say, over average lift weight categories, that would back up their point. But funnily we’re not seeing that.

  9. DubLoony

    And there we have it, anyone who disagrees with Joan is a Labour hack. (true in my case !)
    https://t.co/HO86MmWDLw

    Joan Collins T.D.
    @JoanCollinsTD
    A piece I have on the bin charges on @broadsheet_ie Labour hacks are out and about in some of the comments. broadsheet.ie/2016/06/21/not…

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