CFL News
September 28, 2011

City, Laborers Union At Odds Over Absenteeism Figures (VIDEO)

The Emanuel administration claimed that many garbage collectors have been calling in sick on Monday or Friday. The union representing those workers said it’s trying to address the problem it’s not nearly as bad as the city claims.

Source: CBS 2 Chicago
Video: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/video?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=6294546

By Jay Levine

The Emanuel administration claimed Tuesday that many garbage collectors have been getting three-day weekends by calling in sick on Monday or Friday. The union representing those workers said it’s trying to address the problem, but also said it’s not nearly as bad as the city claims.

CBS 2 chief correspondent Jay Levine tried to sort it all out.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long considered garbage collection fertile territory for cost savings and he’s made Streets and Sanitation Department workers his poster children for a questionable work ethic.

But the head of one of the unions representing those workers said he’s not looking for fight with the Mayor.

“I want to be a partner and I have to be a partner, but to be a partner, we have to communicate,” said Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Union Local 1001. “And this could be a starting point that we could communicate on, why the numbers differ.”

Phillips looked at charts released by the city on Tuesday, showing the Streets and Sanitation Department workers who called in sick on Mondays and Fridays. Then he showed CBS 2 the actual daily memos from the department, which indicate, not an average of 40 garbage collectors calling in sick each Monday as the city claimed, but – in recent weeks – half that.

“I’ve said it for the last six years I’m in office every meeting – you have to come to work, you have to be there, you have to do your job,” Phillips said.

The mayor has been complaining about the number of Streets and Sanitation workers out sick or injured since his election.

“If one ward is not performing, maybe because of absenteeism or for other reasons, other wards have to chip in and make sure that that ward that maybe is a little deficient is ultimately pulling their weight,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th).

The Mayor has gone on record as wanting to change garbage collect from a ward-by-ward system to a grid system. He has also said he is considering privatizing garbage pickup as he’s already done with recycling.

But Phillips claimed his members are already working to cut costs.

“At both airports, I have laborers that work straight shifts on weekends. Loop operations, the same thing,” Phillips said. “Because – without us working together – my workers and citizens of the city of Chicago will lose.”

He also said the laborers already allow the city to hire new workers at 60% of the current pay scale to replace retiring full-salaried retirees. The new workers’ wages would increase 10% a year, but wouldn’t reach full scale until the fifth year.

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