“Her legacy is public division, private selfishness and a cult of greed that together shackle the human spirit” Guardian Newspaper on Margaret Thatcher
In the couple of weeks in between accepting the job as Contract Manager at Gedling in November 1989 and the contract actually starting there was a lot to do organising the work. Martin Edwards, the contract Supervisor and Vic Stanfield, the foreman, had already done a lot of this work, reorganising the collection rounds and putting the three man crews together to take into account the reduction in vehicles and manpower that came as an inevitable consequence of being privatised.
We didn’t realise this at the time but as it turned out this was most unusual because normal practice was for the new management team to wait until the very last moment to begin to think about important things like actually getting the work done while they concentrated on totally peripheral matters.
We finished with Gedling Borough Council on Friday 30th November which gave the team a few days to put the finishing touches in place before the contract started a week later. In this time the office inside the vehicle workshop was constructed and furnished with brand new office desks and filing cabinets, shiny Sasco wall charts and a microwave oven. One whole day was wasted when we all drove down to Southend-on-Sea to collect our new Peugeot company cars and then went to Charlton in East London to meet the Head Office team.
The Managing Director and the Operations Director, Blunders and Blodger, came to the depot the weekend before the first Monday morning and contributed nothing more useful than cleaning out the vehicle cabs and putting the company logo on the side of the trucks.
They also brought the operations assistant Jane Brennan with them and she very helpfully went shopping for an office waste bin and a washing up bowl. This was considered to be a very important job because it was essential to make sure every depot had the same office furniture in the correct corporate colours of blue and green and this was a job that was considered to be far too demanding for us. It didn’t occur to them to bring along any clever work schedules because anything as complicated as that which required cerebral activity was completely beyond them both.
The weather was awful and snow and ice began to pile up outside in the depot yard and each vehicle was covered in several inches as it stood outside the workshop garages growing icicles and waiting in turn for a superficial makeover. The weather was so bad that there was a power cut at my home in Derbyshire which lasted all weekend so I was actually rather glad to be at work in the warm workshops and offices but by Sunday teatime the novelty was wearing off and I was tired of vacuuming vehicle cabs and scraping off Gedling Borough Council stickers, my hands and feet were cold and I was beginning to wonder what I had let myself in for. Blunders and Bodger just squabbled with each other all the time about the correct placement of the Cory Environmental logos on the sides of the dustcarts and the weekend just slipped away without anything really useful being done.
At some point on the Sunday the two company bully boys, Mike Mara and Jim Pitt turned up and I stupidly thought they would have something useful to offer but of course they didn’t and they just hung around the new office drinking tea and coffee and making the place look untidy.
Martin and I were really fed up by now but our spirits were lifted when at about six o’clock Bodger said that it might be a good idea if the two of us left off from vehicle scrubbing duties and went to the office to prepare for tomorrow morning and the first day of the contract. These two chumps actually seemed to believe that we had spent the last four weeks doing nothing and that we should now take an hour or so to organise the collection rounds. We didn’t say anything of course but we had got everything perfectly organised, Martin was very good at designing work schedules and we were delighted to sit in the warm first floor offices with a hot cup of tea and look down into the workshop at these four charlies all working away in the cold until almost ten o’clock at night – Wankers!
The next morning we turned up for work at six o’clock to see Malk Rockley and the street cleaners out first and then an hour later the refuse collection crews. Blunders and Bodger were there and Mike and Jim who were normally on these occasions required to go out and deal with any catastrophes were too but we had everything well organised and under control so by nine o’clock they belatedly declared themselves surplus to requirement and all went off in different directions up and down the A1 to drop in on another contract and make life uncomfortable for the managers with a bit of a kicking about poor financial and operational performance. When we were certain that they were at a safe distance we sent out for some bacon rolls and we put our feet up waiting for the crews to finish their days work.
Unfortunately the weather just continued to deteriorate and get colder and colder. Readers unfamiliar with Gedling Borough Council in Nottinghamshire are forgiven for not knowing the topography of the area but basically the district is split in two by a high ridge called Mapperley Top and because it was exceptionally cold at the top of the hill any dustcart attempting to cross it to get to the town of Carlton on the other side just had its bin collection mechanism freeze up and had to return to the depot to be defrosted.
Prospects looked bleak but then I had a brilliant idea – keep all the crews on the Arnold side of the ridge and collect all the refuse there in the morning and then after (if) it had warmed up send them all to Carlton in the afternoon. Either by my sheer managerial brilliance or by an absolute meteorological fluke the plan worked perfectly, we collected all the refuse as planned (which was an unheard of success in the private sector waste management business), we were in the pub with a pint of beer by six o’clock and I was beginning to believe that this waste management business wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined it might be.