Mayor: Deal with garbage workers to save $30M

May 1, 2012 3:18:34 PM PDT
Chicago officials reached an agreement with the union representing garbage workers. According to the mayor, the deal could save the city tens of millions of dollars.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has tried for most of the past year to get city employee unions to agree to work-rule changes.

"We're here to announce what will be a projected savings of $30 million over six years," he said Tuesday.

After months of negotiations, the garbage workers union, Laborer's 1001, agreed to work-rule changes in return for the city's hiring 50 additional members annually for the next six years.

The new hires would be paid $20 an hour -- $13 fewer than the current $33 an hour rate. And the new hires would be cross-trained to perform several Streets and Sanitation duties, including tree-trimming, rodent control and graffiti cleanup as well as garbage collection.

"That's going to give flexibility to the department to move people around in immediate notice," said Tom Byrne, Streets & Sanitation commissioner.

"We realize the condition of the city's budget and the city's finances," said Lou Phillips, Local 1001. "It was, like I said, a win-win-win situation for everybody."

"It's a great opportunity for us, and I'm glad that 1001 saw it as an opportunity for them to maintain their workforce and add new members," said Alderman Pat O'Connor, 40th Ward.

The mayor has threatened to lay off more city workers whose unions have not agreed to work-rule changes, and his vision includes the increased use of managed competition where private companies may bid on city services including many performed by Streets and Sanitation laborers.

"This agreement will actually put them in a better position and makes us more competitive with outside bidding," said Phillips.

The mayor hopes the 1001 settlement is the first of many such agreements with dozens of other city worker unions.

"We have to write new rules," he said. "We can't get stuck in the old way. And I appreciate that Lou as a leader stepped forward and said, 'how do we go forward?'"

Mr. Phillips said he did not expect any problems selling the work rule changes to his membership at briefing that begin as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

Local 1001 has over 2,000 members. The lower pay rates and cross-training only affect newly-hired employees. The deal appears to protect the jobs of current workers.