HOUSTON – The union representing Houston's solid waste sanitation workers packed Tuesday's city council meeting, expressing concerns about working conditions and fears about outsourcing their jobs to private companies.
There have been significant garbage and recycling pickup backlogs, which the city blames on trucks lost during Hurricane Harvey, aging equipment and not enough drivers.
In January, the city council approved a nearly $5 million plan to outsource recycling pick-up to a private company.
But six months later, some customers say they haven't seen an improvement. And sanitation workers say it's not working either.
"What I hear from our members is we're having to pick up their slack. It's just wasted money in my opinion that we need to invest in our employees that do the work. They know what's wrong. They know the issues that need to be fixed," said Roy Sanchez, treasurer of HOPE AFSCME Local 123, the union that represents Houston sanitation workers.
Workers said concerns about working conditions are not being heard by department managers.
"Broken equipment. A lot of overtime. They're working a lot of overtime because they don't have enough employees and the salaries are too low to attract the right people," Sanchez said.
Mayor Sylvester Turner acknowledged some solid waste employees are having to work seven day weeks and the city was looking at alternatives to ease pressure on workers.
He added that there would likely be the use of additional private waste companies.
The first of 69 new garbage and recycling trucks have recently been delivered to the city.