Refugees ease binmen shortages crisis

Refugees living in Birmingham and Coventry are being employed by Bedford
Borough Council to overcome recruitment difficulties.

The council pays an agency to employ about 160 refugees, from other parts of
the Midlands, to work as bin men, groundsmen, and car park and toilet

The agency provides transport to take the workers, who mainly live in the
Coventry and Birmingham areas, to and from work.

Roland Simmonds, head of personnel for Bedford Borough Council, said the
policy was introduced because of the difficulties recruiting people locally
into these types of roles due to low unemployment in the area.

Simmonds said: "We have problems recruiting staff in low-paid manual
roles. The area is traditionally quite affluent and has a diverse range of
employers including large and small businesses. It is a former engineering area
that is now IT and small production based. It is also only 50 minutes away from
London on the train."

A lot of the refugees do not have good English skills so the the council
employs a translator on all shifts.

Agency staff are also put through a rigorous health and safety training
programme with an interpreter present to make sure the course is fully

Simmonds said: "Agency staff go through a very complete health and
safety training programme and have translators to make sure that everything is

"The initiative started in 1991 with a couple of staff and has carried
on growing since then. We see no reason why it shall not continue in the

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