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Originally published Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 7:38 PM

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Company to hire permanent drivers in waste strike

Facing growing piles of garbage from a week-old truck drivers' strike and the looming threat of fines, Waste Management has decided to begin hiring permanent replacement drivers, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The Associated Press

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Facing growing piles of garbage from a week-old truck drivers' strike and the looming threat of fines, Waste Management has decided to begin hiring permanent replacement drivers, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The company also announced plans to expand its waste collection efforts Wednesday, running all its commercial garbage routes and providing residential garbage pickup for nearly a dozen communities including Seattle, spokeswoman Robin Freedman said.

"We have obligations throughout the Puget Sound region," she said. "We need to get back to work."

Recycling and yard waste drivers represented by the Teamsters Union walked out July 25, and Waste Management's Teamsters garbage truck drivers have honored their picket lines. The strike has affected about 217,000 customers in King and Snohomish counties, including large areas of Seattle. On Tuesday, the strikers extended their picketing to a Waste Management facility in Burlington, in Skagit County.

No permanent replacements have yet been hired, Freedman said Tuesday evening, adding that the waste pickups the company has managed so far have used Waste Management substitute drivers brought in from other parts of the country.

The company is focused "right now" on hiring permanent replacements for striking drivers, Freedman said when asked if Waste Management planned to hire replacements for both strikers and the garbage truck drivers who are honoring picket lines.

She said she didn't have a number on how many permanent replacements the company hoped to hire. Plans called for screening candidates identified at a recent recruitment fair and through ads running this week.

Replacements won't be on the road Wednesday "but it will be soon," she said.

No talks are scheduled in the strike.

Calls for comment placed Tuesday evening to Teamsters Local 117, representing the strikers, and Teamsters Local 174, representing Waste Management garbage truck drivers, were not immediately returned.

There are about 150 yard waste and recycling drivers and about 350 garbage truck drivers.

Residential garbage pickups were planned Wednesday for Seattle, Algona, Auburn, Bothell, Federal Way, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Mill Creek, Redmond, Renton and Snoqualmie. Freedman declined to say how much of the company's service area that covered.

Seattle announced earlier Tuesday that it would allow people with proof of a city address to bring up to six bags of garbage or yard waste at a time to transfer stations, starting Wednesday. A Seattle Public Utilities spokesman did not immediately respond to a call for comment about Waste Management's new plans for expanded pickups.

Waste Management could face possible fines of $1.25 million a day if the service failure lasts more than a week, Timothy Croll, solid waste director for Seattle Public Utilities, said earlier this week.

The strike would pass that deadline Wednesday, and city crews will be documenting any missed pickups on Thursday, he said.

Any fines would be assessed in the September payment on the contract, which is worth $36 million a year.

"I think there'll still be fines, but we're hoping to mitigate some of them," Freedman said.

Waste Management has the contract to collect waste in 60 percent of Seattle.

Waste Management's contract with Local 117 expired at the end of May. The union wants to close a gap of about $9 an hour between the pay of its recycling truck drivers and the garbage truck drivers of Local 174.

Waste Management is offering a six-year deal it says would raise average salaries from $58,000 to $68,000 a year. If benefits are included, the offer is worth $98,000 a year to a driver at the end of the sixth year, the company said.



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