Union bosses claim that Bristol City taxi drivers are being forced out of work because of shortfalls in the Council’s controversial community toilets scheme which saw all on street public toilet facilities shut.
Public transport employees with conditions that leave them needing the loo more frequently say they are victims of discrimination due to the lack of facilities in built-up and pedestrian areas.
The scheme was launched last year to save the council £440,000 a year, which they insist has proven to be a huge success and it is regarded as a “really good example of best practice” for other local authorities.
As reported by the Bristol Live, one-hundred businesses, charities and organisations have now signed up to offer their conveniences freely to non-customers, with many of them open for longer than the former council loos.
But Malcolm Green, Unite's Bristol regional officer, wrote a statement to the communities scrutiny commission, saying the scheme was preventing some union members from working in public transport.
He said: “Unite the Union has a very significant membership employed in the transport sector, ie, bus drivers, coach drivers, community transport drivers, taxi drivers, delivery drivers and street workers.
“All of our members in these sectors are extremely concerned and frustrated at the lack of provision of public toilets.
“This has become an extremely sensitive issue for our transport/mobile members.
“Some of our members who suffer from conditions related to toiletry issues are now having to leave employment in the transport sector due to the lack of toilet facilities.
“These members feel that they are being excluded from working in this sector.
“We at Unite don’t find this acceptable and we see this as an equality issue.
“The council has a duty to supply a reasonable number of public toilets in highly populated and pedestrian areas.”
Lindsay Hay, the City council neighbourhood services manager, told commission members on Monday, April 15, that 100 venues had signed up to participate in the scheme for at least five years, whic far exceeds the cabinet’s original target of 36.
She said there was now at least one community loo in 26 of the council’s 34 wards, covering every geographical BS postcode in the city.
Hay said: “When we analysed the opening times, this was very encouraging when you compare the availability of the toilets that were closed with what is under the community toilets scheme.
“Previously there were not any toilets apart from urinals that were open all the time.
“We now have one venue that is open 24/7.
“Of the council-run ones, they were not open beyond 8pm, and now we have 44 that are.
“Three toilets were open six days a week. We now have 55, and 35 that are open seven days a week.”
“It is a really dramatic increase in the availability of free-to-use, accessible public toilets.
“It is different. It’s not just re-badging the same stuff we had before.”
Deputy mayor Asher Craig told the meeting: “It has passed all of our expectations and it shows how supportive the community really are.
“The community toilets scheme is now being looked at as a really good example of best practice by other local authorities.”
Commission vice-chairman Councillor Jo Sergeant said: “It is the responsibility of providers of public transport to ensure their staff have access to public toilets.
“In Avonmouth we have a bus service and that driver often gets caught short but the toilet is not always open.
“Where we’ve got a toilet that is open more hours, that is a good thing.
“But maybe If we cannot afford to fund it ourselves, maybe our partners who are providing other services in the area could step in and help.”
Chairman Cllr Gary Hopkins said: “We’re happy that progress is being made.
"We would like more attention paid to some of the gaps, possibly with the help of councillors in areas with what they might be able to find because if there is a big gap there, they have local knowledge.”
The commission agreed to work in order to promote and sign up more businesses to the scheme across more areas.
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