PAWTUCKET — Due to the upcoming privatization of trash services, 19 employees in the city's Department of Public Works received layoff notices on Friday, but city officials say that all or most should be able to land other municipal jobs or a position with the vendor.
DPW Director Lance Hill said the lay-offs involve city employees working in sanitation and recycling and were expected as part of the privatization process. As of June 3, the city's trash services, formerly done in-house, will be handled by MTG Disposal of Seekonk, Mass. City officials have said that the move is expected to save an estimated $4 million over the five-years of the $11 million vendor contract.
Hill said that because of the current collective bargaining agreement with the DPW employees, who are members of Local 1012, Council 94 of the AFL-CIO, the city must follow a specific process. He said the city will now start posting available jobs and employees will have the chance to exercise their “bumping and bidding rights” as allowed under the contract.
Hill said that in addition to the city posting job vacancies, MTG Disposal will be inviting the city employees to a job fair to discuss opportunities available with the vendor. He noted that under the provisions of the contract with the city, MTG has agreed to offer jobs to any displaced Pawtucket workers first before hiring from the outside.
Hill said he expects there to be 12 to 14 open positions in DPW that the sanitation and recycling workers can bid on. He added that some of the sanitation workers have been out under workmen's compensation or other matters, but that these individuals will be provided with job opportunities as well. “It's our pledge that when they come back, they will be able to return to a position,” Hill stated.
Hill said he expects most of the 19 lay-offs to be absorbed into other vacancies, either in some other capacity at DPW or in another municipal department. Other employees may elect to join MTG Disposal.
Hill acknowledged that under the “bumping” process, a sanitation department employee could “bump” a junior employee out of a job. However, he pointed out that the sanitation worker must possess the minimum skills required in order to bid on a job in a different city department.
Hill added that of the five or six sanitation workers who might find themselves without a position to bid into, the administration has publicly agreed to place them somewhere in the city to avoid any lay-offs.
Augie Venice, president of local 1012, said the 19 sanitation workers received letters notifying them that their last day of employment is June 1. He said there were originally 26 jobs in sanitation and recycling, but the staff is now down to 19 due to attrition.
Venice said that while the lay-offs were expected in the wake of the city signing the contract with MTG Disposal, there is some concern among the employees about being able to find other jobs. “We'll see how many of these 19 find employment,” he commented. He said the initial job postings include six or seven driver/laborer apprentice positions and a traffic light technician vacancy.
Venice also said he assumes most of the workers will lose money in their paychecks from having to take lower paying jobs. He said many of the sanitation workers do not have the skills necessary to do some of the other municipal jobs that are currently vacant. “The city is saying no one is going to lose a city job, but whether it's at the same rate of pay or not...I doubt that,” he stated. “But, the city is saying there will be no lay-offs...that they will have a job or create a job somewhere in the city.”
Venice said the union has filed grievances over the privatization centered around language in the current collective bargaining agreement that, among other things, states that no person outside of the bargaining unit shall perform a city job. “This is in clear violation of the contract,” he said. He added that a decision on the grievances is still pending, and the union is also exploring “some other remedies” for the displaced workers.
City officials say MTG Disposal is scheduled to officially take over as the city's trash and recycling vendor on June 3. A majority of the City Council still say they are angry at the way the city administration signed the five-year contract without first obtaining their approval.
At a recent council meeting, councilors voted to have the city hold off on selling any of its trash collection vehicles for at least a year to make sure that the vendor program is working successfully.