AS staff at a waste management firm wait nervously to see if they've still got a job, their boss has splashed £81,000 on shares in its parent company.

A union has slammed Viridor chief executive Ian McAuley after he bought 9,703 shares at £8.3548 in the Pennon Group as employees learned of job cuts.

Several jobs could go at Viridor in Taunton, where it employs 288 people at four sites, including its HQ.

Nigel Behan, of Unite, said: "The redundancies are disappointing, given the collection and disposal of waste is so important.

"Viridor should be looking at more investment in this area rather than less and a bigger focus on sustainability.

"The chief executive buying shares as people are losing their jobs is classic behaviour of people in the know taking advantage of profits at the expense of our colleagues' hard work."

A Viridor spokeswoman said the company's new operating model will provide a platform for growth.

She added: "Separately, and in accordance with best and standard practice in large organisations, Pennon executive directors are expected to build up a shareholding in the company.

"Chief executive Ian McAulay completed a share purchase, investing in the business in line with the company’s shareholding guideline."

Bosses are hoping for voluntary redundancies as Viridor sheds five per cent of its 3,343 workforce nationwide - 90 central support workers and 40 from recycling and resources operations.

The spokeswoman said redundancy figures for Taunton are unavailable as the company is consulting staff.

The company has head offices off Priory Bridge Road, with a South-West regional office and a base for the Viridor Credits community funding at Blackbrook, as well as Priorswood recycling centre.

Chief executive Ian McAulay said Viridor plans to close "a small number" of its 320 sites and merge the South-West and South-East regions.

It has been hit by falling energy prices as it recycles much of the waste it collects into energy.

Mr McAulay added: "In 2014 we launched our strategy and purpose, a key aim of which is to deliver sustainable growth for Viridor, and we've made good progress in delivering this.

"However, we continue to encounter sustained negative market conditions, with unprecedented large drops in the cost of crude oil, commodity and energy prices.

"We have therefore accelerated strategic plans to reduce our costs and increase efficiencies.

"I recognise the news of job losses will be unsettling for affected employees and we'll be working closely over the coming weeks to offer support and, where appropriate, outplacement assistance.

"These changes provide further confidence that we're able to continue to deliver our strategy and business transformation, and drive towards greater functionality across our asset base.

"Our proposed new operating model will enable a continued focus on delivering best value and quality services for our customers, as well as development of a regional circular economy-based service model."