Phoenix council members grill public works director over increasing delays with bulk trash pickup
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- There was a lot of trash talk at city hall Wednesday, specifically a problem with bulk trash building up across various Phoenix neighborhoods.
Joe Giudice, director of Public Works, acknowledged that there have been significant delays in the collection of bulk trash in Phoenix. He said workers were approximately three weeks behind schedule and are still playing catch-up. He said that trash collection teams are being told to work weekend hours and that recruitment efforts are well underway to solve the problem.
“We have been going out early mornings and announcing to our drivers that we’ve insured our retention incentive so many of them have signed up for that,” Giudice said. “We are actively recruiting and interviewing on a daily basis. We’ve also filled all of our apprentice positions.” He said that there were 20 employees currently in process of being onboarded as new workers as well as 7 apprentices.
Vice Mayor Laura Pastor of District 4 criticized Giudice’s claim that collection teams were only three weeks behind. “This has been a situation for the past 6 or 7 months if not longer, in hiring. This crisis didn’t creep up on us,” she said. Pastor said that many of her constituents have been expressing their frustrations to her, saying they’d been waiting since August for collection. “There’s now frustration at a level that I don’t think no matter what I say to my constituents, they’re frustrated,” she said. “In my neighborhood, [our collection] is not even due until December.”
Pastor added that the City should be communicating to citizens the timeline of what to expect in the coming weeks and what the next, detailed steps of recruitment are. She said she believes the lack of interest in potential hires comes from the lack of benefits and extreme worker expectations. “We’re burning people out,” Pastor said. “Not only is it 10-hour days but now it’s overtime. Now, it’s 15-16 hours by the time they have their 4-10s. They’re exhausted.” She also said later in the meeting that she’s concerned that inspectors will start fining people for the city’s problem.
District 5 Chairwoman Guardado said that, for her, blaming the workers for a City works problem is upsetting. She said that she believes the root of the retention and hiring issues boils down to the poverty-level wages being offered for the positions. “I don’t appreciate the fact that we went on record saying that it’s because we’re hiring less skilled workers, and it’s taking longer to train them. You have to really own the fact that we pay people very little,” she said. “Currently, $21.60 is the minimum people are being paid. After health insurance, people are making $18.75 minimum. These are poverty wages.”
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