Waste Management: 250 replacement drivers ready to start training

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on August 1, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Waste Management managers are setting up training stations at the company’s South Seattle headquarters to get replacement drivers prepared for duty.

The company said it has already trained 120 "substitute" workers from across the country, and it is now preparing to train hundreds of locals as "permanent replacements."

Some of the training will literally be "on-the-job," overseen by the current temporary replacements in order to get garbage picked up as quickly as possible.

“They would be with driver-trainers for an extended period of time to make sure they're certified and signed off to be in our neighborhoods,” said safety trainer David Pearson.

Waste Management is launching a media blitz on radio and in newspapers advertising the driver positions. Company officials said they already have 250 eager applicants, some of whom applied at a recent job fair and have already begun training.

“I've got people in the pipeline ready to go,” said Operations Director Rob Sherman. The jobs pay about $18 an hour.

The Teamsters have launched their own P.R. campaign, sending out recorded calls to customers warning that hastily trained replacements could be dangerous. The recycling and yard waste workers walking the picket line went through weeks of prepapration before hitting their routes. They said a crash course for replacements could be just that. 

“These guys won’t know the streets,” said 14-year veteran driver Brent Barrett. “For them to say they're gonna hire these guys and get them on the road as soon as they can does raise a huge safety concern.”

But Waste Management's Sherman said, “Every driver that gets behind the wheel of a Waste Management vehicle is going to have the same training and skills as any driver who has been with us before.”

Then there is the issue of whether replacements could really be considered "permanent." That hinges upon whether the National Labor Relations Board concludes that unfair labor grievances filed by the union are legitimate. If so, the drivers will get their jobs back. 

If not, the union drivers said they're still not budging.

“It’s a scare tactic. I'm not concerned at all that they'd be able to replace me or any of other other drivers," Barrett said.

But a Waste Management spokeswoman said it is no bluff. The company plans to have some of those “permanent replacements” on the road by early next week, she said.

For Waste Management customers

Per Seattle Mayor McGinn, the public can report missed collections two ways:

* Clicking on the Seattle Public Utilities website at www.seattle.gov/util.

* Via personal twitter accounts. Make sure to include the block where you live (a specific address is not necessary), the hash tag #theymissedme, and a picture of your carts.

For Seattle residents

Starting Wednesday, Seattle residents can throw away some of their garbage for free. Up to six bags of garbage and yard waste can be thrown away without charge at the city's south and north transfer stations: 1350 N. 34th Street in the Fremont-Wallingford area and at 8105 5th Avenue S. in South Park. The north station operates 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the south station's hours have been extended until 9 p.m. for the duration of the strike. Bring identification to show Seattle residence.

All updates are provided at wmnorthwest.com.

Allied Waste customers and the King County Transfer Stations are not affected by the strike. Areas in Seattle served by CleanScapes are also not affected.

Negotiation updates are also posted on the Teamsters Local 117 website, www.seattletrashwatch.org.

Get the complete garbage and recycling pick-up schedule on the Waste Management website or call the customer service center at 1-800-592-9995.

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