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Commission wants hazard pay for Resource Recovery employees

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 by Tyler Whitson

Municipal waste management is an essential job, but it comes with its fair share of risks. With that in mind, the Zero Waste Advisory Commission asked Austin Resource Recovery Department management Wednesday to study and consider ways to improve safety conditions and offer hazard pay to front-line employees.

Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert told the commission that he would be “absolutely open” to following up on the request, which came in the form of a resolution.

“Our employees drive every single street in the city every week, and our employees are not protected by cones and barrels,” Gedert said. “They are out, exposed in the traffic.”

The resolution states that Austin Resource Recovery staff should report back to the commission with options for safety improvement and hazard pay, though it does not impose a deadline.

Gedert said that although he does not have the authority to change pay levels, he would move the resolution forward to the city’s Human Resources Department.

“If there is a pay increase, I will always accommodate a pay increase in the budget,” Gedert said. “It is part of the budgeting process before City Council, so it does need City Council approval, but I have committed to my employees over the past five years that if there is any offer of pay increases, I will find the money for it.”

Council will begin full-scale budget deliberations in August.

Commission Chair Rick Cofer, who authored the resolution, emphasized the dangers involved in operating heavy machinery and equipment and in collecting waste and recycling.

The resolution lists statistics about past accidents involving department workers. Since 2007, three employees have lost their lives on duty. Since 2012, employees have been involved in more than 280 work-related vehicle collisions and have reported more than 250 injuries, almost a third of which resulted in employees limiting their duties or taking time off.

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