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CUPE Local 37, representing City of Calgary refuse collectors, is taking action to lower the high cost of solid waste management – and reduce workplace injuries. “The cost in both financial and human terms is simply too high,” says local president Dan Donohue.

Over 2000 working days are lost on an annual basis because of injury suffered by the city’s refuse collectors, costing the city a half million dollars a year. “We are talking about ten lost years,” says Donoghue. “With 208 collection days per year, the City is paying for over 2000 lost working days in replacement wages and Workers’ Compensation costs. The real shame is that these accidents could be prevented.”

Refuse collectors suffer back, shoulder and neck injuries from repetitive lifting of overweight loads. They also suffer cuts and needle stick injuries from dangerous waste improperly packaged. There are, on average, 3.25 lost time accidents every month.

Last March, the City passed new by-laws limiting the weight and size of household garbage containers and setting out the appropriate procedure for disposing of sharp objects, broken glass and used needles. CUPE Local 37 members report these by-laws are not being followed because most people are unaware of the changes. In fact, the information on the City of Calgary website regarding household waste disposal is out of date.

The local is asking the people of Calgary to help out. Last week they launched a public awareness campaign, urging the public to pressure councilors to do more to publicize the new by-laws.