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Lexington’s sanitation workers are paid fairly, report says. The workers disagree.

Lexington sanitation workers call for ‘step’ pay scale at rally

Lexington garbage truck drivers and other sanitation employees rallied Thursday in downtown Lexington to put pressure on city leaders to address long-standing pay inequities in the department that collects the city’s trash and recycling.
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Lexington garbage truck drivers and other sanitation employees rallied Thursday in downtown Lexington to put pressure on city leaders to address long-standing pay inequities in the department that collects the city’s trash and recycling.

A new report by a human resources consultant found Lexington sanitation workers’ compensation is in line with those of other cities and did not recommend changes to garbage and recycling employee pay.

Hanna Resource Group was hired by the city to examine sanitation workers’ compensation after employees complained starting employees were making as much as $1 to $2 more than employees who had worked at the city for years.

Sanitation employees want a “step program,” which increases pay based on number of years of service or experience. Police and fire have a similar program. Sanitation workers first came to the council in October with a request to change their compensation system. Since then, they have held a public rally urging the city to move to a step pay system.

The council put the issue into the General Government and Social Services Committee.

Candra Bryant, of Hanna Resource Group, told the committee on Tuesday they looked at similar jobs in the public sector and determined the average wage for Lexington sanitation workers is in line with the market.

“This means you have a very competitive pay structure,” Bryant told the council. “Overall they are paid near market.”

Bryant said “step pay” programs are no longer used because of the expense, and once someone reaches the top of the step program there is no way for those employees to be paid more. “They are outdated and difficult to maintain over time,” Bryant said.

Bryant said city’s sanitation workers are also the only city employees that receive incentive compensation. Those employees are expected to work 8 hours and get paid for 10 hours, four days per week. Drivers who finish routes in less than eight hours have to remain at work but are sometimes paid for not picking up trash or recycling.

“They may work for six or seven hours a day but are paid for 10,” Bryant said. Raleigh, N.C., Cincinnati and Louisville have similar incentive pay programs for its sanitation workers. Most cities do not, Bryant said.

But the Hanna Resource Group added a fifth day of work for Lexington’s sanitation workers’ pay so it could be compared to other cities even though Lexington sanitation workers aren’t paid for a fifth day but four, 10-hour days. That makes a difference in the analysis, said Vice Mayor Steve Kay.

Several sanitation workers said the report did not address pay inequality and it also doesn’t explain why drivers are leaving.

Javier Perez said he makes $18 an hour training starting drivers who make more than $19.

Perez said he recently put in his two-week notice. He’s been offered a job that makes $22 an hour with a $2,000 sign-on bonus.

“Every year we are short on drivers,” Perez said. If the city was paying them fairly, drivers wouldn’t quit.

Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said sanitation workers are paid from a separate fund— a dedicated tax — and not the general fund. Hamilton said even if that fund has the money to move sanitation employees to a step program she would advise against it.

“Other departments will also want it,” Hamilton said.

The committee made no final decisions about sanitation worker pay after a two-hour meeting Tuesday. Hamilton said she would return in sometime in the summer or fall to look at the possibility of increasing hazardous duty pay, which sanitation workers and some other city employees receive. The other possibility is looking at increasing the additional pay all people with commercial drivers licenses throughout government receive, she said.

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