Local News

Officials, Sanitation Workers Discuss Overtime Complaints

Posted September 13, 2006

— Garbage collection across Raleigh was delayed Wednesday when dozens of city solid-waste workers staged a protest over work schedules and overtime pay.

Nearly 80 workers began a "stand-in" Wednesday morning at 400 W. Peace St., where the city's Solid Waste Services Department is headquartered, saying managers are requiring them to work shifts longer than 10 hours without paying them overtime.

Instead, the workers said, managers offer compensatory time off, but refuse permission when the workers try to use it. The workers also said they are being overworked and are threatened with suspensions if they do not work late.

"We just feel like we are being cheated for the work we are doing," worker Edward Young said.

"If we don't get the time off, what good is comp time?" worker Lonnie Lucas said.

According to department policy, managers can give sanitation workers overtime or comp time. Employees said they've unsuccessfully tried to address concerns with their managers in the past, but no formal grievances have been filed at City Hall.

Assistant City Manager Lawrence Wray ended the impasse after a few hours by pledging to come up with a solution.

"It is clear to me what you desire, and I'm going to work on that when I leave from here and go to City Hall," Wray said.

Managers then asked the workers to give them two days to work out a proposal, and the workers started their trash pick-up routes.

City Manager Russell Allen met with some of the workers Wednesday afternoon to discuss the situation. He said he wished workers had filed a grievance instead of staging a protest so trash pick-up remained on schedule.

"We are always disappointed when employees choose that as a route to try to stop work. That's not an acceptable solution," Allen said.

When the city went to curbside trash collection with automated trucks, 100 sanitation workers were reassigned. Allen said he doesn't believe the new system is contributing to the concerns of the remaining employees.

Officials acknowledged this summer that crews fell behind on recycling pick-up because of new items now being collected, such as paperboard and different plastics. Sanitation workers said the recycling change is partly to blame for their long work days.

Because of the late start with Wednesday's trash collection, officials said most routes in northeast Raleigh wouldn't be completed by the end of the day. Residents are asked to leave their trash and recycling bins and yard waste on the curb until crews can complete the routes Thursday.

Friday's trash collection is expected to follow its normal schedule.

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