Fayette County

Lexington sanitation workers say city isn't honoring agreement on sick leave, vacation, OT

Lexington sanitation workers say starting employees are making more than employees who have been there for decades. They want the city to implement a “step” program that guarantees pay raises over time to get rid of the inequalities in pay.
Lexington sanitation workers say starting employees are making more than employees who have been there for decades. They want the city to implement a “step” program that guarantees pay raises over time to get rid of the inequalities in pay. Staff File Photo

Lexington sanitation workers say the city is not honoring an agreement written in May concerning workers' sick leave, vacation time and overtime pay.

Bo Johnson, an organizer with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is representing the sanitation workers, said the city has violated the memorandum of understanding that was approved by city leaders and sanitation employees.

"They are not getting paid for sick time and they are not being granted vacation time, and on top of that, we have employees who are getting injured on the job," Johnson said.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has scheduled a rally for the Sept. 24 Urban County Council meeting to air sanitation workers' grievances.

Johnson and sanitation employees met with city officials last week and have agreed verbally to some tentative changes to the memorandum of understanding. But those changes have not been presented in writing, Johnson said.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for the city, said that a number of issues were discussed at the meeting Thursday and that the city hoped to meet again with sanitation workers to work out the two sides' differences.

"A number of issues were discussed," Straub said. "We reached an agreement on a plan to allow waste-management employees to follow the city's sick-leave policy and do away with an old policy they had used."

Discussion on other issues will continue, Straub said.

Johnson said he would ask for a follow-up meeting with city officials within two weeks. Currently, there are no plans to call off the Sept. 24 rally, he said.

Sanitation workers say that if they call in sick and do not have a doctor's note, they are not paid for the day. The memorandum does not require a doctor's note for one sick day, Johnson said. The agreement also says sanitation workers may take vacation days if they submit that request 30 days prior. "Those vacation days are being denied," Johnson said.

The memorandum also says garbage and recycling drivers may not drive more than eight hours a day. That doesn't mean workers can't do other tasks after eight hours, Johnson said.

During the Fourth of July weekend, the city brought in temporary workers rather than pay sanitation workers overtime, Johnson said.

Because of a shortage of workers, only one sanitation worker now works each of the city's recycling trucks instead of two, Johnson said. That means the drivers frequently have to get out and move the recycling containers. Some of those employees are getting injured, Johnson said.

"We had two that quit yesterday," Johnson said Friday.

The sanitation workers bargaining unit includes 150 employees, Johnson said. It has taken more than two years for the workers to organize and for the city to recognize the bargaining unit.

The city meets with the Department of Waste Management employees under an agreement called "Meet and Confer," an alternative to full union status for public employees.

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