Several Oahu neighborhoods have experienced significant delays in their trash pickups in the last few weeks. The city says refuse crews are now all caught up. And officials from the city and the union that represents the workers have agreed on plans to try to keep those delays from happening again.
Residents in East Honolulu complained after their trash wasn't being picked up on time last month. The late collections were also happening in Aiea and Pearl City neighborhoods. Those delays got the city and the United Public Workers union to meet for two hours Thursday to solve the problem.
"It is both in the city's interest and the union's interest that this core service be continued and provided in an efficient and effective way," said UPW state director Dayton Nakanelua.
The city had originally said that a manpower shortage was to blame. But it also turns out that a weight limit may have added to the problem. A month ago, the city began enforcing a longtime limit of about 17,000 pounds per refuse truck, in part for safety reasons.
"If you get too much weight and it's too high, or it's even too far back in the truck, that truck becomes unstable," said city Environmental Services Deputy Director Tim Houghton.
Houghton said overloading was a factor when a refuse truck flipped over near Kailua in October. The city also said some drivers were overloading their vehicles to get their routes an workday done sooner.
The UPW said it agrees with the weight limit. However, "that has added to the hours of work of day individual day, depending on the number, for the automated units, the number of units, or bins, that are out curbside," said Nakanelua.
Some of the increased hours resulted in overtime, which under union rules, can be refused by the workers. Houghton said the city is coming up with plans to deal with the worker shortfall and increased trips from the weight limits.
"If we have (them) available, we'll send out a help truck, a second truck, to the route, as a way to make sure that we are doing our utmost to make sure that everything's collected when it should be," said Houghton.
The city will be adding more refuse workers in the coming weeks. And it's working with the union on new collection routes for the coming year. The workers will get their first look at proposed route maps Friday.