The city cleaning chief rejects allegations of an increase in rat attacks in the “garbage crisis”
There are more of them. You are bigger. And they’re more aggressive.
All over the world, there have been many stories of an increase in rat sightings during the pandemic.
There were reports of rodents migrating from New York to London last year.
Experts – not least in pest control – said they thought rats were looking for new sources of food as shops and restaurants closed for lockdowns during the pandemic.
And the fact that more people were working from home meant they were more likely to see the animals when they were moving.
In Glasgow, the GMB, which represents many cleaners, used a giant inflatable rat – named Cludgie – to portray an alleged urban waste crisis.
Newspaper reports say cleaners were hospitalized after being “bitten” by rats in “attacks”.
Some workers were quoted as saying that not only were there more rats, but that they were bigger than usual.
GMB’s Chris Mitchell – who was the face of his union’s campaign – told The Herald that two of its members had been bitten.
“There are more rats because of cuts,” he said.
Local authorities keep detailed reports of rat calls for pest control. What do Glasgow’s official records show?
Well, since the pandemic, there have been more sightings of rats outside or in non-living areas.
City authorities had 4,399 emergency calls for rats in such pre-Covid circumstances in 2019, but 5,802 in 2020, three-quarters of which included the pandemic.
Calls for rats outside and in non-living areas have persisted in the first half of this year when the number was 3,512. Compared to 3,462 in the first six months of 2020, half of which were on hold, and 2,417 in the same period of 2019 that was prior to the pandemic.
In contrast, the emergency calls for rats in living quarters decreased slightly, from 1375 in 2019 to 1227 in 2020. The corresponding figure for the first half of this year is 789. Rat calls tend to peak in summer and are low in winter.
Council officials say no worker has been bitten by a rat and there is no official record of this happening in recent years.
The Herald has seen health and safety reports for all recorded incidents involving rats. That’s six since August 2018, four of them this year.
In five cases, cleaners had their arms scratched when a rodent ran over them after being disturbed in a trash can.
The workers were taken to the hospital to have their cuts or grazes cleaned and a preventive tetanus shot.
In a sixth incident, a worker twisted his ankle after being frightened by a rat. No worker was hospitalized or hospitalized for further treatment.
Stephen Egan, the Glasgow park and street cleanliness officer, said he was unfamiliar with the talk of “rat attacks”.
“I am not aware of that,” he said. “There have been several unfortunate incidents in the past six to twelve months. Rats are never good. We had workers who got scratched and had a tetanus spike. In the last situation, the guy was back at work in an hour and a half.
“The idea that rats attack humans on a regular basis is simply not substantiated.
“I’m not trying to minimize what happened to the staff,” he added. “But if you work in the garbage disposal, I would have thought you would come across rats 50 years ago and I would have thought that you would come across them to some extent today too. Because we live in a city with 630,000 inhabitants. ”
Mr. Egan said overall rat infestation reports have been relatively constant. “The idea that the rat population suddenly exploded isn’t corroborated by any statistics I see,” he said. However, he said there was a “plausible scenario” that rats moved towards residential areas in search of food during the lockdown of shops.
Council officials and GMB’s Mr Mitchell have been falling out for weeks. The union official told The Herald that all of his reports of rat attacks were truthful.
Mr Mitchell put together a rat registry and asked the public to come forward with sightings of the pests.
He previously told journalists: “We have had more sightings and attacks with rats in the past 15 months. Cleaners have been hospitalized for this and say they have never seen so many rats in their lives.
“The situation is getting worse and worse.”
The council chiefs rejected the rat register as “on display”.
Mr Egan said allegations that there had been a cleanup crisis had hurt morale and that he was “disappointed” with criticism of “a particular union”.
“It feels like a little soundbite to me,” he said.