A female road sweeper was unfairly driven out by Merton Council after repeatedly complaining about sub-standard working conditions and discrimination, a tribunal has ruled.
Iyabode Animashaun, 64, won an employment tribunal against Merton Council on August 1 for unfair dismissal after her job was terminated last year without any official warning.
While working as a road sweeper for more than six years, she said she had frequently complained about the council not providing any lavatory facilities.
Merton’s road sweepers are employed between 6am and 2pm, and officially are not given any designated restroom areas in between the hours of 6am and 9am.
Ms Animashaun, who lives in Armfield Crescent, Mitcham, said: “When I was working close to home it was okay because I could pop home to go to the loo.
“But then they moved me to Pollards Hill, where there is hardly anywhere you can just pop in, especially before normal working hours.
“Once it was so bad that I had to get the bus home, but it was too late and I had wet myself. It was humiliating.”
Things got so bad that her line manager, who worked in the council’s waste and recycling centre in Garth Road, Lower Morden, had made an official complaint against another colleague who allegedly said Mrs Animashaun was a “pain”.
An informal investigation was launched into the council employee who made the alleged comment, but no action was ever taken.
The final straw came when she was moved on to a different patch – Wimbledon town centre – where she was told she could store her barrow in the Esso service station and Tesco Express site in Morden Road.
A health and safety report, seen by the Wimbledon Guardian, revealed the site manager at the Esso garage/Tesco site in Morden Road, Wimbledon, lets road sweepers store the barrows on his site.
In exchange, the council's road sweepers must keep the privately-owned site in a “Grade A condition”.
The report said there was a risk of road sweepers "being struck by reversing and manoeuvering vehicles", but described it as a "low" level of risk.
But Ms Animashaun said: “It wasn’t safe for us to keep going in and out of a site where there are lorries coming and going.”
After she repeatedly refused to attend a meeting with managers in Garth Road, without a trade union representative, she was eventually terminated for an "irretrievable breakdown in the employment relationship", the tribunal was told.
The director of the environment and regeneration department, Chris Lee, told the tribunal an alternative job could not be found for her because a road sweeper was "the most junior unskilled post in the council " and, even if it could, "Ms Animashaun was a very difficult person to deal with and one who simply would not accept management authority."
A spokeswoman for Merton Council said they would not appeal the unfair dismissal decision and that road sweepers are given a list of toilet locations, but would not say where they were.