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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Mayor blasts ruling on refuse workers

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser City Hall Writer

Mayor Jeremy Harris yesterday said a state labor board ruling means 10 Pearl City refuse workers spend two to three hours a day "doing nothing" before they go home — and still collect paychecks for working their full eight hours.

"It's absolutely absurd," Harris said. "It doesn't make any sense, and the taxpayers shouldn't have to foot the bill for paying for these workers who are basically not working."

The Hawai'i Labor Relations Board issued a ruling Friday that the city had violated existing agreements with the United Public Workers union by ordering the transfer of 10 refuse collection workers from the Pearl City base yard to the Honolulu base yard.

City Deputy Director of Environmental Services Frank Doyle said the city ended up paying $393,592 in overtime at the Honolulu yard to cover routes that could be handled by the workers in Pearl City if the transfer had been completed.

The labor board said the city could not transfer the refuse workers, because an agreement with the union said there could be "no layoffs, transfers out of yards or divisions or change in pay status" for refuse workers assigned to the old manual collection routes.

When the city converted most rubbish routes from three-person manual collection crews to the automated trucks that require one operator, Harris praised the change as one that saves some $6 million a year.

The mayor said he was appalled by last week's ruling, and will appeal.

"They come to work and get paid for a whole eight-hour day for doing nothing," he said of the Pearl City base yard workers.

Some parts of O'ahu wound up with not enough manual-collection routes to keep their workers busy. Those old "uku pau" routes allow workers to end their work shift when they finish collecting the rubbish on their routes.

The Pearl City workers don't have manual routes to which they are assigned, Harris said, meaning they wait at the base yard and can go home when their co-workers return from their routes. "They only have to come in for a couple of hours and then they go home."

Gary Rodrigues, state director of the United Public Workers union, could not be reached to comment.