Local News

Ranks Of Sanitation Workers Expand So Shifts Can Shorten

Posted September 19, 2006

— The City Council voted Tuesday to add 12 positions to sanitation crews to help collect trash faster and prevent workers from putting in long days.

Dozens of city sanitation workers staged two work stoppages last week to protest what they called unfair work schedules. The workers said they are often required to work more than 10 hours a day, aren't paid overtime and aren't allowed to take time off in lieu of overtime pay.

City Manager Russell Allen met with workers last Thursday and Friday, pledging his support in resolving their complaints in order to get the trash trucks moving again.

Some sanitation workers have met with union representatives and have asked for union help in the matter. The workers set a Friday deadline for the city to address their complaints.

A few sanitation workers gave up their lunch break Tuesday to attend the council meeting, and supporters wearing orange ribbons and holding signs packed the council chamber. Representatives of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other minority community groups also attended.

"I'm here to speak about being forced to work day in and day out more hours than should be expected to work by anyone," sanitation worker Jimmy Habuda told the council.

After some council members expressed regret that the situation had gotten so out of hand, the City Council approved six new sanitation positions and renewed six others that were going to be eliminated. Temporary workers will get the first shot at filling the positions, which will cost the city an extra $135,000.

"I'm horribly offended that we even have to have this room packed with people with who we take for granted," Councilman Phillip Isley said.

"It's obvious here we have good people doing a very difficult job. I would like to assure everyone it's the consensus of this council that we are going to take good care of those people," Councilman Tommy Craven said.

Mayor Charles Meeker also assured the workers the city supports them and appreciates their service.

After the vote, the workers said they were pleased with the initial actions of the council.

"I am quite satisfied. I look forward to working with the City Council," sanitation worker Lonnie Lucas said.

Allen has solicited proposals on staffing and equipment needs, plans to review the criteria for how long part-time employees can work full time without benefits and will investigate why several sanitation employees were recently suspended. He said the city attorney also is looking into record-keeping policies in the Solid Waste Services Department.

All workers will receive overtime pay, not comp time, for working extra hours until audits and other issues can be researched, he said.

Allen plans to meet again with sanitation crews Friday morning, and council members also agreed to sit down with workers on a regular basis to avoid future labor troubles.

Allen said he would provide the council next week with a report on whether management changes are needed in the department.


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