Employees taking time off hampers recycling center

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Staffing issues at the Athens-Hocking Recycling Center helped prompt the calling of a special meeting of the Athens-Hocking Solid Waste District board for Wednesday.

Roger Bail, director of operations and grants for the district, said he’s concerned about having enough people on the job to maintain day-to-day garbage collection as well as collection and processing of recyclables. For more than a week, some union members have been using sick time, vacation time and personal days to take time off work, leaving the operation short-staffed, Bail said.

It’s happening at a time when there’s been discussion of ending the union members’ employment with the district and moving them to the non-profit corporation, Athens-Hocking Recycling Centers Inc., that actually operates the recycling and garbage collection programs. The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting includes discussion of the transfer of employees and discussion of equipment lease/transfer options.

There are 14 workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees who do garbage collection and the collection and processing of recyclables.

Bail said that last week he was down by three employees on Monday, two on Tuesday, five on Wednesday, three on Thursday and four on Friday. The employees used sick leave, personal days or vacation time.

Bail said the impact of being short-staffed is that employees need to be moved to cover the pick up of garbage and recyclables, making fewer people available for processing recyclables. The recycling center has had to play catch-up with its processing of materials.

“We’ve been covering it pretty well,” Bail said. “I feel better today (Monday) than what last week was.”

Athens County Commissioner Chris Chmiel, who is on the boards of both the district and the nonprofit, said he spoke with union officials last week about employees not reporting for work. Chmiel noted there is one employee who has indicated he has an injury.

Due to the Presidents Day holiday, The Messenger was unable to make contact Monday with officials at the local AFSCME office.

Chmiel said what may be happening is that the employees are taking their benefit days because they are concerned that they will lose them in the transition to employment with the non-profit.

Both Chmiel and Bail said they want to see the matter of transferring the employees resolved quickly.

“The sooner we make it (the transition), the sooner we can move on,” Chmiel said.

Garry Hunter, attorney for the district, said after a Feb. 10 meeting of the district’s board that he would be preparing paperwork to handle the transfer of the employees. He said it would be a three-party agreement beween the district, nonprofit and the union.

Sandy Shonborn, AFSCME regional director, said earlier this month that the union is not opposed to the transfer, as long as employees retain their pay levels and benefits.

Another unresolved issue is the transfer of equipment to the nonprofit. The solid waste board has a legal opinion from Hunter saying the trucks and recycling equipment belong to the district, although Chmiel and Athens County Commissioner Charlie Adkins (who also is on the district’s board) have questioned whether that is correct.

Discussion of the personnel and equipment matters are on the agenda of Wednesday’s special meeting, but Board Chairman Lenny Eliason would not predict whether action will be taken at the meeting.

“We’ll have to see what happens with the board,” Eliason said.