Trash pickup to resume after tentative deal to end strike
Trash pickup will resume for more than 200,000 customers of Waste Management after the company and striking recycling-truck drivers reached a tentative settlement Wednesday night. Recycling and yard-waste pickup will be slower to recover, the company says.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Service updates from Waste Management: http://wmnorthwest.com/servicedelays.html
Seattle Public Utilities: www.seattle.gov/util/
Striking garbage workers will be back at work Thursday after a tentative settlement was reached between Waste Management and Teamsters Local 117, which represents the recycling-truck drivers, the company announced Wednesday night.
The agreement for a new six-year contract was reached during a confidential meeting between the two parties' lead negotiators and is subject to a 9 a.m. ratification vote Thursday at the Union Hall in Tukwila.
Because the 153 striking recycle drivers must vote on the contract, recycling and yard-waste collection will be limited on Thursday.
The 350 garbage-truck drivers have a separate contract with Waste Management, so they should be back on the job as scheduled, according to a joint release by the two parties. They had walked off the job in suppnort of the recycling-truck drivers.
Service had been suspended since last Wednesday to Waste Management's 220,000 customers in King and south Snohomish counties.
The city of Seattle still intends to tally up the waste and recycling the company didn't collect on Wednesday and Thursday. The city asked people who were supposed to receive service on those days to leave their containers out until 6 p.m. so they could be counted. Additional days will depend o how quickly the company provides full service.
"Our intent has been to hold their feet to the fire," Seattle Public Utilities spokesman Andy Ryan said Wednesday night. "They're going to get charged for what they didn't pick up."
Reacting to news of the settlement Seattle City council member Richard Conlin, said, "That's wonderful news. Clearly, we needed to get more equity in the contract, and it's wonderful that they were able to reach agreement on that."
The announcement seemed to come out of the blue. No new talks had been scheduled, and both sides had started campaigning to shape public opinion, giving the impression they were digging in for the long haul.
The tentative agreement also came on the heels of the city's aggressive campaign, led by Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, to fine Waste Management up to $1.25 million a day for any missed pickups from residential customers who were paying for service they weren't getting.
Other cities also had strongly urged the company and the union to come to an agreement. Some 130,000 of Waste Management's customers are outside of Seattle, from Auburn to Bothell, Redmond to Federal Way.
As recently as Wednesday, Waste Management said it had started permanently replacing the striking recycle drivers. It rolled out a widespread advertising campaign this week to attract new drivers while the union launched a robo-call operation that disparaged the replacement workers as unsafe.
With the early-evening announcement, it was as if none of that had ever happened.
"We are extremely pleased that we reached an agreement on a new contract that delivers a solid compensation package to our hardworking and professional drivers," Waste Management spokeswoman Robin Freedman said in the release. "Although regular drivers will be back on their routes tomorrow, it will take time to fully recover from this unfortunate situation. We appreciate the community's patience at this time."
The union echoed the sentiment: "Teamster drivers work hard and deserve fair compensation for the important work that they perform," Local 117's secretary/treasurer Tracey Thompson said in a release. "We are pleased to have negotiated a contract that recognizes the professionalism of our members."
The union has said the strike was triggered by Waste Management's refusal to continue bargaining with the drivers over such things as working conditions, changes to working conditions, benefits and wages.
The union charged the company with violations of the Unfair Labor Practices Act for failure to bargain, said Brenda Wiest, spokeswoman for Teamsters Local 117.
The drivers asked Waste Management to close the pay gap between the recycle drivers and the garbage-truck drivers, arguing that they perform essentially the same jobs, Wiest said.
Neither side provided details of the new deal, but Waste Management previously said it offered a six-year contract that would raise the average salary about $1,660 a year to $68,000 by the end of the contract. Counting benefits, the offer was worth about $98,000 a year to a driver at the end of the sixth year, according to the company.
Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or email@example.com. On Twitter @susankelleher.
Information in this article, originally published Aug. 1, 2012, was corrected Aug. 2, 2012. A previous version of this story mistakenly said that Seattle City council member Richard Conlin was president of the council. Sally Clark is council president.