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Monday, May 1, 2006 - Page updated at 07:40 AM

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Seattle-area garbage strike averted with tentative settlement

The Associated Press

The threat of a strike by area garbage haulers was averted at least temporarily with tentative agreement on a contract with one company and plans to resume talks with another, a union leader said early today.

A tentative settlement with Waste Management Inc. of Houston was reached late Sunday and will be submitted to a ratification vote in about a week, said Dan Scott, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 174. He said both sides agreed not to discuss terms of the deal before the vote.

Contract negotiations with Allied Waste Industries Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz., will likely resume Tuesday at a time and place to be determined, he added.

Officials from the two companies were unavailable for comment early today because their business offices were closed. Although the contracts are negotiated separately, the terms are similar, union leaders say.

Scott would not say whether union leaders area recommending acceptance of the Waste Management offer.

Union members began strike preparations after voting Saturday to reject four-year offers from both companies, which haul garbage generated by more than 2 million residents and thousands of businesses in King and Snohomish counties. Union committees spent almost three hours Sunday morning selecting strike captains, preparing signs and choosing picket locations, Scott said.

Local 174 represents slightly more than 300 Waste Management drivers and slightly fewer than 300 from Allied Waste.

Key issues in the latest round of talks include seniority and attendance provisions and the length of the work day, Scott said.

"I think we still have some significant work to do on the work day when we meet with Allied," he said.

Pay was not a major issue in the final phase of negotiations, he added. Driver currently make about $24.45 an hour.

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Negotiations with Waste Management representatives began at 5 p.m. Sunday, but scheduling problems delayed the resumption of talks with Allied Waste for a couple of days, Scott said.

Drivers have remained on the job since the old contract expired nearly a month ago.

In a prepared statement released Sunday, Allied Waste officials said they were disappointed with rejection of the last offer but looked forward to going "back to the negotiation table within the next few days to resolve final issues and avoid a strike."

"We want to avoid a strike and get a fair deal because we believe our customers and employees are the biggest losers in a strike," said Mike Huycke, the company's Seattle-area manager. "We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve the remaining issues quickly."

In case of a strike, the city is prepared to deal with any interruption in service, said Marty McOmber, spokesman for Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels.

Seattle's agreements with the two companies require them to continue to pick up trash regardless of any work stoppage, and they are liable to substantial penalties if they fail to do so, McOmber said.

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