Raleigh temps get new status

Staff WriterOctober 4, 2006 

— It sounds like an oxymoron: full-time temporary worker.

But for years, Raleigh has collected garbage and trash with just such employees, paying them less than their co-workers and offering them no benefits.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted to grant full-time status to any worker with a satisfactory six months on the job, making at least nine in sanitation eligible for health insurance and a small raise in pay.

The move granted another victory to Raleigh's solid waste workers, frustrated over long hours and inadequate pay.

But because the new policy takes effect citywide, it also represents a step for workers in other departments. Raleigh employs 22 full-time temps outside of Solid Waste Services.

"I think we're all hearing the same thing," said Mayor Charles Meeker. "Our citizens expect [us] to take care of our sanitation workers."

City Manager Russell Allen has already notified 10 other sanitation employees of full-time status, making the total 19. He also said Raleigh is looking into time-keeping and payroll issues within the solid waste department and is hiring a consultant to investigate the routes.

About 12 sanitation workers and union leaders came to the council's meeting Tuesday to voice thanks for progress in solid waste.

"We think you're taking a very important first step," said Angaza Laughinghouse, president of N.C. Public Service Workers Union.

The council's vote came on the heels of solid waste Director Gerald Latta's retirement, announced Friday, and Operations Superintendent Lash Hocutt's transfer out of the department.

Still outstanding, Allen said, is a policy on overtime. Workers have complained that they are required to work 14-hour days without being paid time-and-a-half wages.

The goal, Allen said, is to staff the department well enough that overtime is a rarity.

In other business, the council backed plans for a new 1,050-space parking deck downtown.

The deck would support the new RBC Centura office tower that faces Fayetteville Street, though the city would buy nearly half the spaces at a cost of $13,504 apiece. Those would be available for the use of residents, Allen said, but will most likely be bought back by developers.

Progress Energy will donate the land, which sits along East Martin Street between South Wilmington and South Blount streets. Highwoods Properties will design and build the deck.

Staff writer Josh Shaffer can be reached at 829-4818 or jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

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