Officials fight over plan for Memphis sanitation workers - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Officials fight over plan for Memphis sanitation workers

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wants to save the city millions by offering sanitation workers a voluntary buyout. The plan prompted a backlash from some city leaders, and now the administration is responding. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wants to save the city millions by offering sanitation workers a voluntary buyout. The plan prompted a backlash from some city leaders, and now the administration is responding.

(WMC-TV) – Memphis Mayor A C Wharton wants to save the city millions by offering sanitation workers a voluntary buyout. The plan prompted a backlash from some city leaders, and now the administration is responding.

Chief Administrative Officer George Little said the city's intent has been twisted out of shape.

He said the goal is to find a fair deal for sanitation workers, as the city struggles to close next year's $40 million budget gap.

Sunday, Memphis Councilwoman Janis Fullilove accused the city of trying to privatize the sanitation department after a buyout discussion turned up on Tuesday's agenda.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," Little responded Monday.

Fullilove's asserts that the city is undoing the work Dr. Martin Luther King did to protect worker's rights, a charge that Little called unfounded.

"We certainly would never work against the principals of Dr. King," he said. "The administration is not in the union busting business. There are no plans for the full privatization of services."

Little said the sanitation department has nearly 600 employees and the buyout would apply to 260.

He also said the notion of privatization just doesn't add up.

"While we may consider selective outsourcing to fill gaps in services, there are no plans now that would reduce the overall census of employees," Little said.

For months, the city has been trimming positions, salaries and services across the board to balance the budget.

Little said the buyout could actually help workers who opted out of the city's retirement system years back.

"We've got a lot of long-term employees who need to be taken care of," Little said. "They're probably working because they don't have a retirement option. We think this buyout program would be a good way to recognize their service."

Little said Tuesday's item is strictly a discussion to get feedback from the council, and is a response to a request originally proposed by the council.

"It would provide increments of $40,000 to $60,000 per worker who voluntarily accepted the buyout," he said.

Little said the goal is to take care of workers, and pick up trash at a reasonable cost to all taxpayers.

However, there is a difference of opinion whether or not the mayor even needs approval to carry out the buyout.

The debate will take place in Tuesday's executive session.

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