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Peel Region garbage workers’ strike to cause delays to waste pickup

A worker collects waste in Brampton, Ont., on April 15, 2009.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

A union representing private garbage workers in Peel Region is on strike, affecting more than 60 per cent of households with curbside waste collection.

About 140 unionized employees of Emterra Environmental went on strike just before midnight on Wednesday after months of negotiations for their first contract.

"We remain willing to negotiate. We have no interest in seeing a strike longer than it has to be, but in order to do that we do need a willing partner who's like-minded in trying to find a settlement," said Jason Ottey, spokesman for the Labourers' International Union of North America Local 183.

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The main issues are wages, hours of work and benefits, Mr. Ottey said, adding that the union is trying to secure a contract with similar terms as employees for the region's other private garbage collection company, Progressive Waste Solutions.

The employees, who work as drivers and loaders, have been negotiating with Emterra Environmental since the union was certified in April, Mr. Ottey said. He said the strike deadline was initially last week and was extended in hopes of reaching a deal.

In a statement, Emterra Environmental said it values its employees and believes "this commitment is reflected in the compensation package that was presented," adding it doesn't want to negotiate contract terms through the media.

The company said it is encouraging union leadership to return to the bargaining table and will "do our utmost to minimize the impact" on its customers and the environment. It also expressed concerns for employees' and residents' safety.

The Region of Peel said the labour disruption would cause delays to garbage collection in some areas but urged residents to continue putting out their waste or drop it off at community recycling centres.

The strike is affecting some 150,000 households in Caledon and parts of Brampton and Mississauga.

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