By Kevin Kelley
As requested by several of the municipalities it serves, Republic Services has submitted a contingency plan for rubbish collection in case of future labor strikes or other unforeseen circumstances.
Twice in April, workers at the trash contractor’s Elyria facility refused to cross picket lines set up by other Republic employees on strike at the company’s Youngstown landfill. The work stoppages caused delays in the pick up of trash and recyclable materials in communities across Northeast Ohio.
In Fairview Park, Mayor Eileen Patton asked service department employees to collect yard waste and bulk items from residents’ yards to lessen the buildup of trash along the city’s tree lawns.
On May 2, mayors or other government officials from seven municipalities served by Republic met at Fairview Park City Hall to compare notes about how each handled the crisis and take steps to avoid future service interruptions.
The result of the meeting was a letter signed by five mayors, including Eileen Patton of Fairview Park and Debbie Sutherland of Bay Village, requesting that Republic prepare a contingency plan for service should workers strike again.
Patton said the No. 1 issue during the April work stoppages was the lack of accurate communication about the work stoppage, and when service would resume.
“Although Republic utilized local supervisors and out-of-state workers to try and compensate for the service shortfall created by the sympathy strike, each community was left on its own to inform thousands of residents about the change in collection service,” the mayors’ May 14 letter to Republic stated. “The amount of phone calls each community received from unhappy residents was well beyond our capacity to handle.”
This month, the cities received the plan they asked for.
The plan states that Republic will adjust its service schedule as it does during weeks with holidays in cases of service disruptions lasting a single day. The plan also details, day by day, specific steps the company will take when facing service disruptions lasting several days.
For example, Republic pledges to contact the news media on the first day of a service interruption to advise residents of delays. The company plans to develop a system for making “phone blasts,” a robocall-style series of phone calls informing residents when they should place trash and recyclable materials out for pickup.
Sutherland said the plan for phone blasts is the best part of the plan.
“Republic is implementing their own (automated phone alert) system where they can reach out to their customers and directly communicate what the issue is, how the company will handle it and what our residents need to do,” the Bay Village mayor told West Life.
Republic also promises to improve communications with municipal government officials. Patton, who noted delays in the pickup of trash is a health issue, said this will include regular conference calls between each mayor and a Republic official.
Republic says it will begin limited trash collection by the third day of a lengthy service interruption and continue through the weekend as necessary to catch up.
Both Patton and Sutherland noted that Republic’s contingency plan covers not only labor strikes but severe storms and other emergencies. Both said they are pleased with the contingency plan submitted by Republic.
Patton said the mayors are staying out of Republic’s disputes with its labor unions. However, the mayors’ May 14 letter to Republic asked that they be kept informed about the contract status of its union employees.
Dave Kidder, Republic’s area municipal services manager, did not respond to a phone call and e-mail from West Life by press time asking about the contingency plan and workers’ contract status.