Sanitation Workers Off The Job In Dispute With City Over Cold Temperatures

(Memphis) City of Memphis sanitation workers refused to climb onto garbage trucks Tuesday morning until the temperatures got warmer.

“I don’t mind serving my customers, but we out here in this cold and we are not appreciated,” said Kristy Clark, a Memphis sanitation worker.

Ten-degree temperatures had employees fearing the worse.

“You are cold from the time you get there to the time you get out. Only warm up is God’s sun,” said Michael Clark, another sanitation employee.

The workers wanted to wait a few hours until it was warmer and then start their routes.

The city said no.

“They told us to get off the property, so I guess next they are gonna call the police. We are staying around here until the temperature warms and we are gonna go out and maintain service,” said Keith Johnson, a sanitation worker.

City officials say 90 percent of the workers went home early Monday because of the cold.

“In my opinion this is nothing short of job action or work slowdown,” said Memphis Public Works Director Dwan Gilliom.

Gilliom says garbage collection is already behind because of the holidays, so he told crews work today or go home with no pay.

“At the end of the day we have a tremendous obligation to the community to provide adequate solid waste services,” said Gilliom.

A city contract says employees don’t have to work if temperatures fall below 15 degrees, but there areĀ  exceptions.

“The exception we are utilizing is when we need to restore and maintain services. We encourage them to take needed breaks to prevent injury or illness,” said Gilliom.

Gilliom said sanitation workers in Bartlett and Collierville still reported to duty despite the weather and so could Memphis workers.

“The wind is out here blowing and you on the back of a truck picking up garbage. That’s more important than the lives of these people? I am appalled,” said AFSCME Union Leader Gail Tyree.

The Public Works Director says there will be consequences for the sanitation workers who refused to do their jobs. It could be docked pay or disciplinary action.

Gilliom says how soon the city catches up on garbage collection depends on the workers, who will definitely have to do some overtime.


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