The City of Columbia plans to create a stronger pipeline to transition temporary solid waste workers into full-time employees with higher pay and better benefits. City staff will bring a recommendation before the council for an ordinance to create a full-time solid waste packer position, said Sydney Olsen, city public information officer.
A meeting Jan. 4 between De’Carlon Seewood, the incoming city manager, and Andrew Hutchinson, union representative for Laborers Local 955, sought to reconcile a fervent debate that has erupted over issues such as fair pay, benefits and obstacles to full-time employment. The meeting came two weeks after revelations about low pay and lack of benefits evoked strong criticism from members of the council and public at the Dec. 20 council meeting. They were also perplexed by the lack of full-time positions that temporary workers could apply for, since the city currently has a shortage of solid waste workers.
“This would allow folks who are temp workers to be able to apply and become full-time employees with the city,” Hutchinson said. “It would allow them to get paid a higher wage, have access to health insurance, paid time off, retirement and all the other benefits that come with being a full-time city employee.”
Olsen said staff are recommending offering a new position that won’t require a commercial driver’s license. This means applicants won’t need to undergo the longer process of pursuing a CDL. “That is a significant difference for these workers. The position is a lot more accessible,” Hutchinson said.