Fayette County

Lexington’s sanitation workers could get a $1-an-hour pay bump soon. Here’s why.

To help attract employees and to keep sanitation workers from leaving, the city of Lexington is considering giving an additional $1 an hour pay to all employees with commercial drivers licenses.

The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council’s General Government and Social Services Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to give an additional $1 incentive pay to 253 employees, including 110 in waste management, starting Jan. 1.

The full council will likely vote on the incentive pay bump next month. The current incentive pay for a commercial drivers license is 8 cents an hour.

Dion Henry, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 4468, thanked the council for addressing a long-standing problem. Henry and the city’s solid waste employees have been pushing for changes to how they are paid since December 2018.

Employees who pick up the city’s garbage and recycling say pay inequities are largely responsible for high turnover in the department.

“Thank you for hearing our concerns,” Henry said during Tuesday’s meeting. “It’s been hard for us to even (have enough staff) to fill all of our trucks.”

“We are tired and many of us are wore out,” Henry said, pointing to many sanitation workers who attended the Tuesday afternoon council committee meeting still in their work clothes. “Many have been up since 3 a.m.”

Most of the $346,789 cost for the additional pay will not come from the general fund, which the city uses to pay most of its bills. Only $95,319 will come from that fund. More than half the money will come from the urban services fund, which is a separate tax used to pay for garbage pickup, among other city services.

Chief Administrative Officer Sally Hamilton said during Tuesday’s meeting the city does not have the more than $95,000 it needs for the pay bump. If approved by the full council, it may have to consider minor cuts to other city departments to pay for it.

The committee also looked at increasing the pay for employees who get a pay supplement for hazardous duty, but it ultimately decided to table that issue until it begins to discuss next year’s budget.

“This will have a minimum impact on the general fund but a massive impact on waste management,” said Vice Mayor Steve Kay who proposed the pay bump for employees who have commercial drivers licenses.

In addition, the city is struggling to hire people with commercial drivers licenses in other departments, such as streets and roads and water quality amid a nationwide shortage of CDL drivers.

Sanitation workers asked the city to move the department to a step pay program, which would gradually increase pay based on years of service. Other departments such as police and fire have similar step pay programs. Sanitation workers say many people are being hired at a higher starting salary than those who have been with the department for years.

A city-hired consultant said in May that Lexington sanitation workers’ pay was in line with other cities. Sanitation workers said the consultant made errors in the analysis. They are paid for four, 10-hour days but the consultants used five-day work weeks in its analysis.

As a compromise, Hamilton had proposed looking at additional pay for employees with commercial driver’s licenses.