December 2011        

County council throws in the towel

On 20 October the residents of Fingal (north Co. Dublin) received a letter through the post from the county council informing them that, from November, the council would no longer be carrying out any refuse collection.
     Enclosed with the letter was another one, from a private company, announcing that it will be taking over the service, with the blessing of the council.
     With this move the county council has abandoned one of the principal purposes for which county and city councils exist. What was formerly considered an essential public service is now considered a purely commercial activity, for which the citizen (“customer” in the language of the council) must pay separately.
     The reasons given for abandoning the service are “the combination of customer loss, reduced revenue and increased operating costs.” Translated from capitalist gobbledygook, “customer loss” means that householders have already been transferring to private operators, who offer (at first) a lower charge.
     A phone call to the county council revealed that the staff were “gutted” by the decision but were forced to it by the sheer number of citizens who had abandoned the public service for the attractions of the cheaper service offered by the profiteers.
     The profiteers operate with a reduced crew of non-union workers with appalling, and dangerous, conditions, who can sometimes be seen running from one house to the next. After a couple of years of unequal competition the official service is no longer considered viable and closes down, leaving the field entirely to the profiteers.
     Now three, four or more operators drive their heavy vehicles up and down housing estates every day, each one looking for the single orange or purple or yellow bin that they must empty. Their vehicles are the same, their bins are the same; the only way they can compete is with smaller crews, or lower wages. Dog eats dog, until only one dog is left.
     This, of course, was the object all along. The surviving profiteers are now free to charge what they like, and to reduce or alter the service in any way they like, with no democratic accountability.

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