Mayor Sandy Stimpson has fired 10 public works employees involved in a “sick out” earlier this month.
In a statement, Stimpson said after conducting 26 internal, pre-disciplinary hearings 16 employees were reinstated and 10 were terminated.
“We are actively hiring and encourage interested applicants to keep a look out for open positions on the personnel board website,” the statement read. “To ensure our citizens do not experience gaps in service, we have mobilized additional city personnel including retired employees to assist the trash department and are exploring commercial options to supplement these efforts.”
On Tuesday, Oct. 7, a number of employees in the trash department called in sick and showed up at the Mobile City Council meeting to speak out about racially based harassment within the department. Ten employees walked off their jobs as part of the protest, city attorney Ricardo Woods said at the time. A total of 21 employees were put on paid administrative leave that week and awaited hearings.
Wesley Young, president of a local public works employee advocacy groups said he believes the firings are unjustified because the employees in question were just trying to help resolve ongoing harassment issues within the department.
“They were trying to address mistreatment,” Young said. “They were hurting.”
Mobile City Council members have discussed opening an investigation into the employees’ claims of harassment, but nothing to that effect has appeared on the council’s agenda to this point.
The city faces an increased shortage of employees at a time when trash and yard debris pickup is already behind schedule.
“I commend the city employees who work tirelessly for our citizens every day, and I applaud the first responders who reported to work during the recent state of emergency,” Stimpson said in the statement. “Many sacrificed personal time to work hard in potentially hazardous conditions. Our employees are truly the heartbeat of our city.”
Young believes the action could help push the administration closer to privatizing the service. While nothing is imminent, when asked, city spokesman George Talbot didn’t rule out a future move toward privatization.
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