Category Archives: Waste.Management

The Privatization Agenda Goes Bust

Source: Tom O’Leary, Jacobin, January 18, 2018

The collapse of Carillion, the mammoth UK government contractor that went bankrupt Monday, was wholly made in Britain, although it has negative consequences internationally. The reason for Carillion’s bankruptcy, which puts vital public services and thousands of jobs at risk, is that the firm and its component companies grew fat during the first phase of neoliberal economic policy and could not cope with the more recent phase, austerity. The immediate cause of the collapse is a failed acquisition spree since the crisis began. Yet the underlying cause is the disastrous relationship successive governments have had with the private sector. Whether the Thatcher, Major, and Blair governments believed the nonsense they spouted about the superior efficiency of the private sector is immaterial. Only the willfully ignorant could ignore the litany of failed privatizations and the extortion of PFI “public-private initiative” contracts that followed their policies. The real purpose of Thatcherite economic policy, which has become widely known as neoliberalism, was precisely to hand state resources and revenues to the private sector. …

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Carillion directors to be investigated
Source: BBC, January 16, 2018

The government has ordered a fast-track investigation into directors at the failed construction firm Carillion. The UK’s second biggest construction firm went into liquidation on Monday, after running up losses on contracts and struggling with heavy debts. The business secretary has asked for an investigation by the Official Receiver to be broadened and fast-tracked. The conduct of directors in charge at the time of the company’s failure and previous directors will be examined. Carillion’s business is now in the hands of the official receiver, which is reviewing all of Carillion’s contracts. The company employed 43,000 people worldwide, 20,000 in the UK, and had 450 contracts with the UK government. …

Carillion’s Government contracts could have been stopped by a single law. Why wasn’t it used?
Source: Hazel Sheffield, Independent, January 16, 2018

Carillion is part of what is known as ‘the shadow state’: a group of large companies secretively awarded government contracts to run Britain’s public services. There are others. …

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Trashed: Inside the Deadly World of Private Garbage Collection

Source: Kiera Feldman, ProPublica, January 4, 2018
 
Shortly before 5 a.m. on a recent November night, a garbage truck with a New York Yankees decal on the side sped through a red light on an empty street in the Bronx. The two workers aboard were running late. Before long, they would start getting calls from their boss. “Where are you on the route? Hurry up, it shouldn’t take this long.” Theirs was one of 133 garbage trucks owned by Action Carting, the largest waste company in New York City, which picks up the garbage and recycling from 16,700 businesses.  Going 20 miles per hour above the city’s 25 mph limit, the Action truck ran another red light with a worker, called a “helper,” hanging off the back. Just a few miles away the week before, another man had died in the middle of the night beneath the wheels of another company’s garbage truck. … In the universe of New York’s garbage industry, Action is considered a company that takes the high road. A union shop, it offers starting pay of about $16 per hour for helpers and $23 for drivers, far more than many other companies. And unlike some other companies, Action provides high-visibility gear and conducts safety meetings. But since 2008, the company’s trucks have killed five pedestrians or cyclists.  In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014. …

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Commercial trash workers testify against conditions
Source: David Giambusso, Capital New York, April 30, 2015

During a City Council debate Wednesday over free enterprise and recycling diversion rates in New York’s private carting industry, members of the sanitation committee heard from a group of stakeholders who rarely voice concerns about the industry publicly: workers in the private trash trade. “When you only earn minimum wage and are working 60 hours a week in the bitter cold snow and ice—I feel like I am being taken advantage of,” said Carlton Darden, who works for the private hauler Five Star Carting, in testimony to the Council. “I feel as if I’m a slave,” testified Michael Bush, another Five Star employee. “I feel used and degraded. I feel as if I’m nobody, but this job is a real responsibility to keep the streets of New York City clean.” Juan Feliz testified that he was fired from Mr. T Carting after contracting cancer—a condition he attributes to chemicals and debris he was exposed to on the job….. Workers testified that they can make 300 stops a night throughout the city during 16-hour shifts, leading to poor recycling rates and safety hazards for residents and workers alike. They said some companies pay workers as little as $8.75 an hour to pick up 20,000 pounds of trash per night, per worker. Workers are expected to provide their own gloves, boots and reflective gear and receive little or no training at some companies, the men testified. …

High-Class Trash /Why it costs so much to haul garbage in New York—at least when the Department of Sanitation is doing it
Source: Matthew Hennessey, City Journal, 15 July 2014 [editor’s note: City Journal is published by the Manhattan Institute]

….Less often thought of as a uniformed workforce, however, are the Big Apple’s 7,200 sanitation workers, who have been without a contract since 2011. The last contract negotiated by the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association Local 831 resulted in a 17 percent raise over 54 months for workers. But according to a May report by the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission (CBC), the bill for collecting and disposing of New York’s trash is already much higher than in other large American cities. Can Gotham really afford to pay more?

With a population of 8.3 million and the second-largest urban economy in the world, New York City produces lots of garbage—about 8 million tons annually—but the city’s Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is responsible for hauling only half of it. The rest is handled by roughly 250 private hauling firms, which contract with local businesses to remove commercial waste. The CBC calculates that the sanitation department spends $431 per ton to collect and dispose of garbage, while the city’s private haulers do it for just $183 per ton. How do private waste-hauling firms, which are both unionized and heavily regulated, manage to pick up and dispose of trash so much more efficiently than the sanitation department?

For starters, the private firms do a better job on the disposal side than the city does. The DSNY sends just 14 percent of the waste it collects to recycling plants, which pay for the materials they receive—up to $25 per ton for paper recyclables, depending on market variations—with most of the rest going to landfills (a small amount gets converted into energy). Private haulers, by contrast, send 63 percent of what they collect to recycling plants, lowering their disposal costs considerably.

The real difference between the public- and private-sector trash haulers, however, shows up on the collection side—specifically, how much those who do the collecting get paid. City sanitation workers benefit from incentives such as “productivity” bonuses and shift-differential payments, which are rarely offered to their counterparts in the private workforce, and they get substantially more paid days off, including unlimited sick days, the CBC report found. The benefits add up. In 2012, the average DSNY employee earned 39 percent more than the average worker at a private trash-hauling firm in the city. Total compensation for a first-year DSNY employee—including overtime, holiday pay, health insurance, and retirement benefits—tops out at over $100,000. A city sanitation worker with more than 20 years on the job earns almost $170,000 in total compensation. The DSNY’s highest-paid employee in 2013 took home $219,233, more even than then-commissioner John Doherty…..

Florida’s disposable workers: Companies profit from undocumented laborers, dump them after injuries

Source: Maria Perez, Naples Daily News, December 14, 2017

Florida law makes some immigrants in high-risk jobs disposable, allowing businesses and insurers to benefit from their work without covering injuries. …. Some Florida businesses profit from the labor of unauthorized immigrants after accepting phony identification when hiring them, and then the employers or their insurers report them after a work injury for using false documents, a yearlong Naples Daily News investigation found. …. When authorities arrested 12 undocumented workers in a Fort Pierce Waste Pro plant in 2012, accusing them of obtaining a job with false identifying information, six employees told officers they were hired under the identities of former workers or with false information provided by managers or another worker. Arrested workers told U.S. Department of Labor investigators they were asked to pay hundreds of dollars in kickbacks to work at the company. They also said managers threatened to report them to immigration authorities if they said they were injured at work when seeking medical care. The Labor report on the 2013 investigation stated a supervisor once threatened to fire or report for deportation employees who didn’t pay $50 each. State investigators charged the workers for using fake identities, but not the employer. Federal labor officials didn’t cite the company for the kickbacks, saying the violations occurred beyond a two-year statute of limitations, according to the report. Waste Pro was not charged with wrongdoing, it cooperated with investigators, and increased scrutiny of employment documentation company lawyer Amy S. Tingley said. …

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12 Waste Pro workers accused of providing fraudulent Social Security numbers to get jobs
Source: Will Greenlee, Palm Beach Post, July 19, 2012

Twelve Waste Pro USA employees were arrested Wednesday after state investigators received information suggesting workers there submitted fraudulent Social Security numbers for employment purposes, according to affidavits released Thursday.

Governing garbage: Advancing urban sustainability in the context of private service delivery

Source: Jacqueline Peterson and Sara Hughes, Cities, October 2017

Abstract:

City governments across North America are increasingly pursuing sustainability aims through novel policies and practices. Such efforts frequently involve changes to municipal services that are provided by the private sector. However, the implications of private service delivery for public sustainability aims are not well understood. We use the experience of Minnesota’s Twin Cities metropolitan area with organic waste recycling to examine how different types of public-private relationships in service delivery shape the ability of municipalities to pursue sustainability through organic waste recycling programs. We find that municipalities with contractual relationships with waste haulers – “organized” systems – have greater success in introducing organic waste recycling than municipalities with licensing relationships with waste haulers – “open” systems. These findings point to the importance of institutional variation in public-private relationships to the success of urban sustainability initiatives and the ability of decision makers to affect change.

Nuclear Negligence

Source: Center for Public Integrity, August 1, 2017

Nuclear Negligence examines safety weaknesses at U.S. nuclear weapon sites operated by corporate contractors. The Center’s probe, based on contractor and government reports and officials involved in bomb-related work, revealed unpublicized accidents at nuclear weapons facilities, including some that caused avoidable radiation exposures. It also discovered that the penalties imposed by the government for these errors were typically small, relative to the tens of millions of dollars the NNSA gives to each of the contractors annually in pure profit.

  1. A near-disaster at a federal nuclear weapons laboratory takes a hidden toll on America’s arsenal: Repeated safety lapses hobble Los Alamos National Laboratory’s work on the cores of U.S. nuclear warheads
  2. Safety problems at a Los Alamos laboratory delay U.S. nuclear warhead testing and production: A facility that handles the cores of U.S. nuclear weapons has been mostly closed since 2013 over its inability to control worker safety risks
  3. Light penalties and lax oversight encourage weak safety culture at nuclear weapons labs: Explosions, fires, and radioactive exposures are among the workplace hazards that fail to make a serious dent in private contractor profits
  4. More than 30 nuclear experts inhale uranium after radiation alarms at a weapons site are switched off: Most were not told about it until months later, and other mishaps at the Nevada nuclear test site followed
  5. Repeated radiation warnings go unheeded at sensitive Idaho nuclear plant: The inhalation of plutonium by 16 workers is preceded and followed by other contamination incidents but the private contractor in charge suffers only a light penalty
  6. Nuclear weapons contractors repeatedly violate shipping rules for dangerous materials: Los Alamos laboratory’s recent mistakes in shipping plutonium were among dozens of incidents involving mislabeled or wrongly shipped materials associated with the nuclear weapons program

Higher Rates, Missed Pickups: L.A. is Hearing a Rash of Complaints About its New Waste Removal System

Source: David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2017

Eight months ago, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overhaul the way trash is picked up at tens of thousands of businesses and large residential buildings, giving the work exclusively to a select group of companies. Backers of the program, championed by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said the new system would increase recycling, roll out cleaner-fuel trash trucks and improve workplace safety for sanitation workers. But the new program, known as RecycLA, is not being universally welcomed by the businesses and residents who will rely on it for their trash pickup. In recent weeks, customers have begun complaining about soaring prices, uncollected trash and calls to their new waste hauling companies going unreturned. …

Middletown, sanitation union clash over privatization

Source: James Nani, Times Herald-Record, June 25, 2017
 
Major changes to city sanitation services are unlikely to materialize this year after negotiations between city and union officials to privatize waste-hauling reached an impasse. The city and the CSEA union, that represents more than 100 city workers and about 14 city sanitation workers, had been negotiating a new contract since late 2014. … CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo has claimed that the costs of outsourced sanitation have “spiraled out of control in many communities after initial lowball bids” and that outsourcing means surrendering control on prices, scheduling and other factors that can affect price and inconvenience residents. Jessica Ladlee, a CSEA spokeswoman, said members do not want to trade negotiating people out of their union for salary increases.

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Middletown explores outsourcing waste hauling
Source: James Nani, Record Online, May 2, 2017

Middletown officials are in negotiations with the union representing city sanitation workers as the city explores outsourcing waste hauling, a move that could eliminate the 14-member department. The talks with the union come as Middletown considers two options to reduce the cost of city sanitation services: either privatizing the services or downsizing and automating part of the department. … But under a push by Alderman Joe Masi, the city last released a request for proposals on the costs of private waste haulers to take over all waste services. As part of the request, any private hauler who wins a contract with the city would have to hire all city sanitation workers for one year. The move has met with resistance by the CSEA, which represents city sanitation workers. …

Lexserv to Temporarily Shut Down While City Takes Over Service

Source: WTVQ, May 8, 2017

A temporary shutdown of the LEXserv online and phone bill payment system has been scheduled as Lexington’s Division of Revenue takes over the service from Greater Cincinnati Water Works. Beginning May 15, the city will manage all LEXserv customer service and billing services, eliminating the need for outsourcing. Officials say some of the many benefits include:

  • City will save taxpayer dollars by moving system in-house;
  • Customer service will be handled by LFUCG staff in Lexington, creating jobs;
  • Payments will be mailed to a Lexington address for processing;
  • New web portal for customers to make payments, review billing. …

A.C. trash collectors angry service privatized despite council

Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 17, 2017
 
Angry workers and residents criticized the state’s move to privatize trash collection Wednesday night during a long public-comment portion of a City Council meeting.  The meeting came two days after officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed the council to approve a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental of New Jersey, a company in Gloucester County. … City officials say the deal will save the financially-troubled city $1.1 million this year and won’t require layoffs. Sanitation workers will fill vacant positions in the Public Works Department, city and state officials said.  The council tabled a vote to outsource the service three weeks ago after some council members said they never received a cost-savings analysis. …

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State privatizes Atlantic City trash collection without City Council
Source: Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, May 16, 2017
 
Officials running a state takeover of the city bypassed City Council on Monday to privatize the city’s trash collection.  The state authorized the city administration to award a three-year, $7.2 million contract to Gold Medal Environmental, a private company that will handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The decision came nearly three weeks after the council pulled a vote to outsource the service.  State Local Government Services Director Timothy Cunningham informed Council President Marty Small of the decision in a letter dated Monday, a copy of which was obtained by The Press of Atlantic City. … The move marks the first time the state has used such power over the council. The state took over the city’s finances in November through the Municipal Stabilization & Recovery Act, which gave state officials authority to pass or repeal any council resolution. Cunningham’s letter specifically cited the state’s power to “procure services” on behalf of the city.

… City administration officials said the contract to Gold Medal will save the city $1.1 million per year without requiring layoffs. The council considered the contract to Gold Medal on April 26, but balked at outsourcing the service after some councilmen said they didn’t have enough information. Those council members, including Councilman Frank Gilliam, had said they never received an analysis comparing the contract to the cost of doing the service in-house. Gilliam said Monday that he had since received a report from city Public Works Director Paul Jerkins, but said the cost analysis didn’t have “legitimate numbers” that justify the savings claimed by the city and state. …

Atlantic City Council to consider privatizing trash collection
Source:Christian Hetrick, Press of Atlantic City, April 25, 2017

City Council will consider privatizing trash collection, awarding a contract for a bike loop and amending rules regarding rolling chairs Wednesday evening. The council is scheduled to vote on awarding Gold Environmental of New Jersey a three-year, $7.2 million contract to handle the city’s trash and recycling collection. The measure is intended to cut costs in the cash-strapped city. The city’s 2017 introduced budget listed a $393,313 savings from its Public Works Department this year. …

U.S. settles with contractor for $4.6 million after alleged False Claims Act violations

Source: Mark Iandolo, Legal Newsline, May 4, 2017

The U.S. Department of Justice announced April 24 that Energy & Process Corporation (E&P) of Tucker, Georgia, will pay $4.6 million after allegations of violating the False Claims Act. According to the department, E&P had a contract to construct a Department of Energy (DOE) nuclear waste treatment facility. The company is purported to have knowingly failed to perform required quality assurance procedures. Additionally, it allegedly supplied defective steel reinforcing bars. … “Our complaint alleges that after actively touting its experience with nuclear construction and quality assurance work, and then being hired to perform such work in connection with an important project, E&P chose to forego the agreed to quality assurance work, and then compounded this failure by falsely certifying to the government that it had performed the quality assurance work,” said U.S. attorney John A. Horn for the Northern District of Georgia. …