Out-of-work truck drivers have swapped celebrity television shows for water to help protect vital services during the coronavirus outbreak.
Thames Water has recruited 19 skilled drivers from Marlow-based R Jameson Event Transport, who usually work on productions like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, to add resilience to its essential operations across London and the Thames Valley.
The rapid hires will also ensure the staff at R Jameson have a reliable source of work until they are able to return to their normal jobs in national television.
Justin Lambourne, Thames Water’s head of operational projects, said: “It’s a win-win situation. A lot of their usual work has been cancelled and we need good quality drivers to help us continue to provide a reliable service to our customers.”
People working in the water and sewerage industry have been identified by the government as key workers. This means Thames Water staff who cannot fulfil their roles from home are required to be out working in roads, at water and sewage treatment sites and in the company’s control centre offices, in line with official health advice.
Richard Jameson, founder of R Jameson, added: “Thames Water is our only hope of surviving this. The whole industry collapsed earlier this month, we lost 150 jobs within a couple of hours and were left with no work for three months and beyond.
“I was left with a load of trucks and drivers who had nothing to do. This agreement has secured my guys some employment throughout this difficult period.”
The new drivers will carry out routine, on-site work for Thames Water, including transporting sludge – the by-product of the sewage treatment process – between works.
This will add depth to the team and free up Thames Water’s experienced industry drivers to undertake more complex jobs, including water network maintenance, repairs or supporting priority facilities like hospitals and care homes.
Eleven drivers are currently undergoing a four-day training course at Basingstoke sewage treatment works, with the remaining eight expected to be ready to start on Tuesday (March 31).
Thames Water is also exploring whether new staff may be required elsewhere in the business, including customer experience, mechanical and electrical roles and control technicians.
Lynne Graham, Thames Water’s HR director, said: “During this extraordinary time, we’re following government health advice to make sure our customers and our people stay safe, while making sure we continue to deliver our critical services.
“As part of this, we’re looking at how we can bring in extra staff or redeploy existing staff elsewhere in the business should they be required due to employee absences caused by the virus.
“Water companies have specific plans in place to ensure they can continue to deliver critical water and wastewater services throughout challenging periods such as pandemics and I’d like to reassure customers that we’re doing all we can to ensure they experience no disruption.”