Columbia residents express frustration over lack of benefits for temporary solid waste workers


At Columbia City Council on Monday evening, several people expressed frustration to council members over the benefits and compensation of temporary workers for Columbia solid waste.

Charles Holden, a temporary worker for Columbia Solid Waste, said he had worked for the city for about eight months. He asked the city council for the same benefits and salaries that regular solid waste employees receive from the city.

“We walked through town with rain, snow, just like regular city workers,” Holden said. “The only thing I ask for everyone is the same things the city is basically getting.”

Holden said he was not receiving benefits such as medical or dental treatment that full-time municipal workers receive. He said he had recently had a bad cut and couldn’t afford to take time off work.

“I didn’t want to talk to my boss about it because they would have taken me off the clock and I couldn’t afford to miss the money,” Holden said.

Holden said he was paid $ 14 an hour and the base salary for the job was $ 17 with the possibility of earning more depending on the specific position.

A Columbia resident at the meeting expressed her frustration with city council.

“I’m really angry tonight with the direction our city is heading,” said one woman. “For you to sit down on $ 15-20 million and not pay those gentlemen who throw our trash out $ 3 or $ 4 more an hour than they deserve, that’s ridiculous.”

A local union representative from Workers’ Local 955 joined Holden and explained to council how the organization represents solid waste workers but not temporary city workers.

“We don’t think anyone who works full time, especially not for the city of Columbia, which so many of us love and are so proud to live here, should go without health care or sick leave, especially during a pandemic, “said Andrew Hutchinson.

Hutchinson said it was difficult to tell the difference between temporary and regular employees because temporary workers wear the same shirts and have scorecards.

“I’ll say ‘Hey, is this a new recruit’ and Jimmy will say ‘He’s just a temp that’s been here for two years,’” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson said the city could solve the problem by offering full-time jobs eligible for benefits and unions to all current temporary workers who want to become full-time pitchers.

“Wouldn’t it be a nice holiday gift to give these people that they have health insurance and access to paid time off,” Hutchinson said.

At the end of the meeting, several members of city council, including Mayor Brian Treece, explained their frustrations with the issue of pay and benefits.

“Solid waste calls for a price increase,” said Mayor Treece. “I will not support a rate hike when they do this. If they want to come back and say they need more money to pay their workers $ 15 an hour, come back and tell me what that number is. “

Mayor Treece said he was shocked by the issue and that city council wants a standard wage of at least $ 15 an hour for all city employees at all levels. He also said he believed all city workers deserved access to health care and union representation.

“How can someone work for the city for more than three or four months and not be considered a permanent employee … I don’t know,” said Mayor Treece.

The city council discussed possible solutions to the problem and said it was an issue that needed to be addressed as soon as possible. The solutions discussed involved changing the requirements to become a permanent solid waste employee and setting a work schedule for the city to be considered a temporary employee.

Council has ordered a report on the matter and plans to address the matter at the next city council meeting in January.

In the meantime, Mayor Treece has said City Manager John Glascock is in a position to make a decision “anytime” regarding the changes for solid waste.

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