Friday, June 25, 2010

Closed-door garbage deals raise concern

A little something from today's San Mateo County Times that reminded me of Pacifica. I know Lionel Emde will appreciate this!
Updated: 06/25/2010 05:08:03 PM PDT

Garbage service customers should have some say in negotiations between waste haulers and Teamsters unions instead of being kept in the dark and resigned to just paying for rising costs, a local city council member said Thursday.
"The ratepayers need to be represented here," Menlo Park Council Member Heyward Robinson told the board of the South Bayside Waste Management Authority during its meeting in San Carlos. The authority represents 10 cities, San Mateo County and a sanitary district in managing trash and recycling services on the mid-Peninsula.
Robinson raised his concerns about closed-door sessions between Allied Waste and two Teamsters unions representing clerical and maintenance workers. Allied is in the unusual position of negotiating new salaries and benefits even though it will lose its contract to provide trash service for the authority at the end of the year.
Allied lost a hard-fought battle in 2008 and 2009 to renew its contract when the authority selected South Bay Recycling to operate its processing facility in San Carlos and picked Recology to take over waste-collection services.
Robinson told the board that cities represented by it are raising residents' garbage rates this year after Allied approved "mind-boggling" union contracts in recent years that included hefty wage increases.
In a contract ratified by Allied and the Teamsters in late 2008, truck drivers were given salary increases of between 25 and 27
percent over five years, which will hike their pay to between $37.30 and $39.96 per hour by 2013. While Robinson acknowledged there are other factors in garbage rates, such as fuel expenses, the ongoing negotiations over labor costs — which make up more than 40 percent of Allied's expenses — should include representatives for ratepayers, Recology and South Bay Recycling.
Allied General Manager Evan Boyd said his company would "gladly invite a member of (the authority's) board ... to sit on our side of the table with us."
The labor talks were on the authority's agenda Thursday as an informational item, so the board put off a discussion about them until its attorney could review the issue.
Boyd also announced that Allied and the Teamsters reached a tentative agreement last week on a contract for the maintenance workers, though it still must be ratified by employees. The company is still negotiating with clerical workers.
Union representatives defended the past Teamsters contracts, saying the employees do a difficult job and deserve a decent wage.
"Whatever we were able to negotiate with them was a fair settlement," Bob Morales, the secretary-treasurer of Teamsters 350, said after the meeting. "We're here to represent our workers."
Robinson noted Menlo Park raised its garbage rates by 18 percent last year and 28 percent this year. Boyd replied that the sharp hikes are largely due to the fact the city had not raised its rates in past years to keep up with rising operating costs.
After the meeting, Boyd said Allied is trying to "get the most reasonable deal we can possibly get" in its talks with clerical and maintenance workers.
"We're in a very peculiar position. We have no interest in leaving the ratepayer holding the bag," Boyd said. "We have every interest in negotiating the most realistic, fair, equitable deal that we possibly can and to exit this market professionally."
Boyd said that even though Allied's contract on the Peninsula will end in a few months, giving large raises to its employees in San Mateo County would put it in a difficult bargaining position with unions in other Bay Area cities, including Fremont and Daly City.
Authority Executive Director Kevin McCarthy said it remains to be seen whether Recology and South Bay Recycling will accept the existing Teamsters contracts.

Sharon Smoliarz

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