ATLANTA — A sanitation company that became the subject of an employee strike on Friday has announced that the strike is over.
Republic Services said the company accepted the "immediate and unconditional offer" by striking employees to return to work after their "troubling actions."
The company claims the "disappointing and avoidable episode" happened before Teamsters were given a chance to vote on a comprehensive proposal.
Republic Services said the strike only briefly affected a business unit in the southern part of the city, and impacts were minimal.
A group of employees represented by Teamsters Local 728 took to the streets early Friday morning complaining of low wages and high insurance costs demanding that Republic Services make changes. Now, Republic is not only responding to the actions of these employees but also addressing the Teamsters union directly.
"It is unfortunate that Teamster representatives directed our employees to walk out on their jobs this morning without giving our employees a chance to vote on our comprehensive proposal," the company said earleir in a statement. "This strike involves only a small number employees in our Atlanta South business unit, and its impact on service or operations will be minimal."
But the Teamsters Union claimed in a statement that the company's behavior in the past had resulted in "numerous work stoppages -- including lockouts and strikes across the United States."
Jeffery Roland, a 32-year employee with Republic, said the strike had to happen.
"We knew this was a fight we had to take on and, once again, its not necessarily the manager at this facility - it's corporate," he said. "Se we're really fighting corporate and everybody knows that a hard fight but we're willing to do whatever it takes."
Union organizer Ben Speight wouldn't say the average pay of employees who are striking but said the average worker makes around $35,000 to $40,000 a year, with some making less and others making more.
"While Republic counts its billions -- including the $190 million it just got in its corporate tax cut - it won't even give us affordable health care coverage," a commercial driver quoted in the Teamsters Union statement said.
Republic has since responded to the allegations and further goes on to say that the Teamsters "misled our employees with unfounded claims" adding that the group's claims that Republic violated the law were baseless.
The Teamsters Union and the local president Randy Brown claimed that the company violated federal law when it outsourced work to subcontractors that was already being done by full-time mechanics employed there.
The next round of negotiations are supposed to begin in the coming week.
"We always bargain in good faith and conduct ourselves in a lawful and respectful manner," the statement read. "We, and our employees, should expect the same from the Teamsters."
However, Teamsters claim that the whole reason negotiations ended was because outsourcing was being used as a bullying tactic.
Republic assured customers that they won't lose service but that it could be delayed. The statement said that the company is prepared "to surge in personnel and vehicles" to help keep this from happening. However, the company will still have to focus employees on locations that provide "a critical public service."
The good news for some in that portion of the statement is that hospitals and schools - both tier 1 services - will not be impacted by the strike. So service to Emory Midtown and Atlanta Public Schools shouldn't be impacted. Other customers will likely see a delay on Friday and Saturday.
Add to that the fact that Republic is not responsible for picking up residential trash in the city of Atlanta. But they do pick it up for some of the city's biggest companies.
"We thank our customers in advance for their patience and understanding as we resume normal service," the statement read.