Mayor Tim Kelly announced a plan to resume recycling services in the next 60 days, unveiling a pay hike for drivers in the upcoming budget that will be retroactive for both new and existing drivers. The temporary service interruption was announced on July 29 after he said the number of empty CDL driver positions spiked to 32, and several concurrent absences created an untenable situation in which the city no longer had enough drivers to collect garbage, brush and recycling.
The city is required by law to collect garbage, and brush presents a fire hazard, it was stated. To attract and retain enough drivers to reverse the suspension, Mayor Kelly has ordered a sharp increase in starting pay for CDL drivers in the upcoming budget to $45,000 annually, representing a 42.6 percent rise from the current starting pay of $31,548 – not including city benefits.
“Pay for city workers has long lagged the private sector, leading to staff shortages and an inability to hire qualified workers. Our upcoming budget will begin to resolve these disparities in order to ensure the level of service our residents deserve and expect,” said Mayor Kelly. “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing as well.”
By increasing pay to a competitive level, combined with the strong benefits already offered to city workers, Mayor Kelly said he believes that Chattanooga residents stand to receive a much higher level of service in the future. Unlike long-haul CDL drivers in the private sector, where drivers are home sporadically or once per week, city CDL drivers can be home every night, and the city also offers access to a pension and a generous health care plan, including a pharmacy and wellness center for city employees, he said.