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Sanitation workers push for pensions, equipment

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Sanitation workers and some Memphis city council members are asking tax payers to foot a bill for a pension and new equipment.

The plan is to add $2.25 to the solid waste fee, but the increase will still lead to a savings for taxpayers.

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Standing amid deteriorating garbage trucks, marked with a red "X" to signify decades old, broken down, rusted vehicles, sanitation workers and some union and city council members labored this Labor Day holiday for two reasons.

"Restoring that fee will allow us to implement the savings to generate the capital for a supplemental retirement plan and for the fleet improvements," said Jake Brown. "It's about workers and it's about trucks."

As the heat of the morning bared down, a handful of sanitation workers stood strong. The plan is to ask the city council to restore the monthly solid waste fee to $25.05, which was reduced by $2.25 July 1 when the ordinance expired.

"I'm supporting it, not specifically for the improvement of the trucks, but so that some of the 80 employees that we have will now be able to retire," said Councilman Myron Lowery. "The maximum supplemental pension they will receive is $12,000 a year."

Most of the vehicles in the fleet are from 1998. On top of that on most days at least a third of the fleet is out of commission.

Sanitation employees said these trucks are constantly falling apart, the lifts stop working, they leak oil and will break down in the middle of the road; which is a main reason why your trash isn't picked up on time.

"We can't afford to have 37-percent of our fleet out of service everyday and get good service," Councilman Lowrey said. "People call us all the time and say my trash wasn't picked up. That may be because a truck was out of service."

"As part of the plan we are going to immediately reduce our compliment of employees by 80," added Dwan Gilliom, city of Memphis Public Works Director. "That reduction in our compliment will generate $3.5 million in savings right off the bat."

Gilliom said there will also be a savings with more fuel efficient vehicles, fewer repairs, picking up trash and garbage at the same time, but also workers will take on additional routes. Even so most workers they say this plan means a better future.

"As a man, I need to provide for my family like Mr. Cleo been here for 47 years," said Keith Johnson, a 28-year veteran sanitation worker. "It makes you feel good and your family feel good. I can retire and still be able to provide for my family."

The proposal is expected to be on the agenda at Tuesday's council meeting, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at city hall. The new plan needs seven votes to pass.

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