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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2007

Slowdown rumors swirl trash pickup cycle restarts

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kertis Reed, a city trash collector, picks up refuse on Goddard Road. After not covering the area last week because of the holiday, trash collectors have two weeks of garbage to pick up. Kertis Reed, a city trash collector, picks up refuse on Goddard Road. After not covering the area last week because of the holiday, trash collectors have two weeks of garbage to pick up.
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City refuse workers return to West Toledo, the Old South End, and the central city today facing a larger task than usual - collection of two weeks' worth of garbage - prompting concerns of an employee rebellion.

There have been rumors of a planned slowdown on the part of workers, who normally rush through their trash collection duties because their union contract allows them to quit for the day as soon as their route has been completed.

Mayor Carty Finkbeiner issued a statement reminding Teamsters Local 20, which represents refuse collectors and drivers, that their contract does not permit "unauthorized work stoppages."

In his letter to Teamsters President Bill Lichtenwald, Mr. Finkbeiner reminded him that the city's contract with the union prohibits such work stoppages.

Mr. Lichtenwald agreed that employees are prohibited from work stoppages or work slowdowns.

But he said the union believes that the city is required to pay employees a day of overtime after city holidays, and will file a grievance.

City officials say they believe the recently approved contract with Teamsters Local 20 gives the city new discretion in not assigning overtime shifts.

In a break from past practice, the city last week did not add an overtime shift Saturday to accommodate those people whose trash collection fell on Wednesday, July 4.

As a result, one-fifth of the city was left to wait two weeks for collection.

The move was aimed at saving approximately $40,000 in overtime expense.

Mr. Finkbeiner said his administration didn't do a good enough job of alerting the public of the change in the accustomed holiday schedule, and he said the practice will not be repeated on Labor Day.

But Mr. Finkbeiner said the current service is not cost-effective.

"The days of our refuse workers working a four-hour day are coming to an end very quickly," he said.

The long-standing contract allows refuse collectors and drivers to quit when their routes are done, so they typically run through their routes without stopping for breaks.

Mr. Finkbeiner said that during the next 60 days, he and his staff would agree on a new approach to trash collection that saves the estimated $500,000 normally spent on overtime annually, but without missing weeks of trash collection, at least in the summertime.

He said a leading candidate to replace the Toledo practice is one used by Columbus, which has a rolling collection schedule.

Columbus uses color-coded days - ruby, navy, gold, gray, and pink - rather than regular assigned days. After a holiday, everybody's trash collection simply moves to the next business day.

Bill Franklin, the director of public service, said the city is still evaluating other alternatives to unlimited curbside pickup, including partial privatization, restrictions on the amount of trash that can be put out, or a "pay to throw" fee plan based on the number of trash containers set out.

The city faces a potential $17 million deficit in next year's general operating fund, which pays for refuse collection, police and fire protection, and other general city services.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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