Sanitation crews staged two work stoppages last week over what they called unfair schedules and a lack of overtime pay. But another major complaint for the workers is the large number of temporary workers who perform the same job as full-time city employees but are denied some benefits.
The Solid Waste Services Department has 31 temporary workers-- about 20 percent of the department. Twenty-three of them have worked full time for the department for more than a year, while four have been temps for more than three years without being hired as city employees.
Leo Brown said he hasn't missed a day on the job in the past three years, picking up trash at the homes of disabled and elderly Raleigh residents. But he is considered a full-time temp.
"We've got to go out there and perform the same tasks, yet we get nothing," Brown said.
According to the city's personnel policy, a full-time temporary employee is eligible for vacation and sick time after six months but isn't eligible for health care benefits.
The lack of health insurance put temporary sanitation worker Joseph Davidson in a bind recently. He had to go to the hospital for treatment of chest pains and now faces more than $3,000 in medical bills.
"The employees at the hospital couldn't understand. (They said) 'You work for the city, and you don't have health insurance?' They couldn't believe it," Davidson said.
Mayor Charles Meeker said the practice of using full-time temps over the long term needs to be changed.
"Temp employees should have a relatively short probationary period -- three or six months. After that, they should become full-time city employees with city benefits, including health care," Meeker said.
City Manager Russell Allen, who has been meeting with sanitation workers over the past week to address their concerns, said he also is looking at the full-time temp practice.
Still, Allen said he doesn't believe the city will get rid of temporary workers altogether.
"I don't think any business would say that could be the case. It's a legitimate role for temp workers, (but) I think we ought to set some thresholds," he said.
Full-time temps will get the first shot at filling 12 additional sanitation positions approved this week by the City Council to help lighten the workload for the crews, officials said.
Sanitation workers plan to picket City Hall next Tuesday. Until then, they plan to appear on radio shows, canvass neighborhoods, and solicit the public's support. But at this time, they have no plans for another work stoppage.
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