Cuts to cleansing services have been blamed by union reps for the council’s increased spend on agency staff in Glasgow waste depots.

Glasgow City Council said employing agency workers as cover in refuse centres due to ‘high absence rates’ had contributed to a £1 million overspend.

But Chris Mitchell, a branch organiser for the GMB union, said: “It has nothing to do with high levels of sickness.”

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He claimed the council has been “asked time and time again” to give full-time positions to agency workers to cover a staffing “shortfall” caused by cuts.

“The reason they don’t employ them is they don’t need to pay them holiday and sick pay,” he believes.

Mr Mitchell, GMB convener for the council’s cleansing department, wants the money spent on agency staff to be invested in cleansing services.

The council says the cleansing budget has risen by around 20% over the last six years, and a spokesman insisted agency spend is “always a last resort”.

“There are times when employing staff on a temporary basis is necessary to ensure the job gets done for Glasgow,” he said.

“Whatever our staffing issues might be, council tax payers are entitled to expect services to be delivered as intended and we always seek to manage our available resources as effectively as possible.”

The £1m overspend in the neighbourhoods, regeneration and sustainability department was reported to a council committee last week.

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A report stated: “This reflects an overspend in refuse collection and disposal due to increased staff costs, above inflationary increases in the residual waste sector and a shortfall in income.”

George Gillespie, executive director for neighbourhoods, regeneration and sustainability, said absence rates are “between 15 and 20% at the moment within our refuse collection”.

“As a result of that we’ve had to supplement the workforce with some agency workers.”

The council spokesman added: “All absences are managed on an individual, case-by-case basis and in line with our personal policies.

“There is a mix of long term and short term absences within the rates highlighted at committee and this does present obvious challenges to the delivery of the service.”

The council launched a ‘People Make Glasgow Greener’ campaign earlier this year, which asks citizens to volunteer to help clean up the city.

Mr Mitchell said community clean-ups are “cheap labour” as “people won’t get paid to clean the city”.

“It’s good when people take pride in their community, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of workers,” he added.

The council says volunteers are not an alternative to employees — and highlights the street cleansing budget in Glasgow is twice the national average.