New Brunswick

Sanitation workers' injuries cited in Moncton's move to private contractor

City workers pack city council chambers as Moncton decides to contract out one of its seven garbage zones to a private contractor.

Official tell council that sanitation workers have disproportionate rate of injuries on the job

When it came time for council to decide whether to contract out one of the city's garbage zones, the discussion lasted almost an hour. (Kate Letterick/CBC)
City workers packed council chambers as Moncton city council voted to contract out one of its seven garbage zones to a private contractor.

The tender will be awarded for a one-year pilot project to Fero Waste and Recycling for $202,955 plus tax.

The decision, which came after almost an hour of discussion, stipulates that data be collected so council can have a clearer picture of things like cost and methods of pick up.

At the beginning of the meeting, union members made a presentation about their opposition to the idea.

Don Morehouse, the city's director of public works, agreed that garbage collection in the city has been carried out well by CUPE Local 51.

Don Morehouse, director of public works, speaks to council about soft tissue injuries that could prevent the garbage service from being competitive.
"But we have seen in the last recent years a trend of high soft tissue injury," said Morehouse. "And it creates a strain on our system to obviously stay comepetitive.

"So we have to stop and ask ourselves questions on how we're performing the service today and is there other ideas, other benchmarks for us to follow."

Laurann Hanson, the general manager of corporate services, said 29 per cent of total time lost to injuries in the city's workforce originates witih problems with sanitation, although that operation department only encompasses one per cent of the workforce.

"We know that the status quo is something we can not continue," Hanson said. "We have to change how we work."
Right now, there seven garbage zones, seven full-time workers and five garbage trucks. City-run garbage collection costs about $58.40 per household.

The city says contracting out the single zone will lower the cost to $54.29.

Mixed feelings

Coun. Blair Lawrence wanted to know if any jobs would be lost as a result of contracting out one of the zones.
Morehouse said no one would lose a job.
Coun. Shawn Crossman tried to have the motion tabled because there were still too many questions. He didn't get enough support. 

Coun. Robert McKee opposed using the private contractor.

"I'm afraid that we're sending the wrong message to our workers that you know," said McKee. "I'm worried about employee morale as well.

"I feel like if we go with this tonight we're going down the road of privatization, and I'm very nervous that it won't come back and that we're going to be in a pickle with our union so that's how I feel."

Councillors Robert McKee, Bryan Butler and Shawn Crossman voted against the motion. Councillors Paul Pellerin and Paulette Theriault were absent from the meeting. 

Fero Waste and Recycling Inc. will take over the single zone city council voted to hand over. (CBC)
Outside council chambers, the national representative for the CUPE, called the move a smokescreen, and predicted service would worsen after the company's first year.

"The tender is cheaper in the first year." Marcos Salib said.

"Eventually two or three years down the road they increase, they increase, they increase.  The municipality loses its assets. Therefore, it's sort of like they're at the mercy of those contractors."

Salib said the union will collect data of its own.

Mayor Dawn Arnold said she's hopeful contracting out for a year will provide council with important information.

"What we need to do moving forward is to have some baseline data, and that we can do by having this one zone, one of seven zones, contracted out."