About 20 percent of Raleigh's sanitation workers have temporary status, including 23 workers who have been temps for more than a year. Four workers have been full-time temps for more than three years.
Temps can earn vacation and sick time after six months, but they receive no health benefits and cannot participate in the city's retirement plan.
The issue has been a sticking point for disgruntled sanitation crews, along with scheduling and overtime pay. They staged two work stoppages earlier this month and have been talking with city officials and union representatives in recent days to resolve their concerns.
Some workers planned to picket City Hall Monday to demonstrate their frustration.
City Manager Russell Allen proposed changes to the personnel policy that would make full-time temps eligible to be hired by the city after six months. The employees would have to pass a drug test, criminal background check and a physical to be hired.
The City Council still must approve the change.
"We've tried to manage the temporary circumstance across the board such that it benefits the citizen and the department and allows for a transition. I think we need to be more formal in how we treat that," Allen said.
The city doesn't usually have temporary workers for extended periods, he said, noting that the switch to automated trash-collection trucks this year, which cut positions in the Solid Waste Services Department, made it difficult to find spots for full-time temps.
Temps would mainly fill vacant positions, but new permanent positions might need to be created, Allen said. The cost of any salary increase, as well as retirement and health insurance costs, usually would be absorbed within the existing department budget, so the changes shouldn't cost the city more, he said.
The proposed changes would affect nine sanitation workers and 22 other temps citywide, officials said. Ten other sanitation workers already have been offered permanent jobs after the City Council voted last week to add 12 positions to the department to lighten the workload on crews.
"I'm a little ecstatic and overjoyed that I'm finally able to go to the dentist and maybe the doctor without kicking money out of my pocket," said Leo Brown, 48, who has worked as a full-time temp in the Solid Waste Services Department for more than two years. "I commend (Allen) on that. It's a move in the right direction."
Allen also put in effect another change to benefit the sanitation workers.
They complained it was too difficult to earn high marks on annual reviews because they were downgraded for using sick leave. Under new guidelines, only unexcused absences will count against city workers on their reviews.
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