MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - The trash strike is over. After 3 days of picketing, 180 Republic Services sanitation workers announced Wednesday afternoon that they're headed back to work.
"We're coming back," said Joseph Wyatt, a sanitation worker. ""I feel like we owe the community to do our responsibility by picking their trash up, that's what they pay us to do."
"It hurts that I have to live 3 days without being able to do what a father supposed to do for his wife and children," he added.
Members of Teamster Local 982 held a news conference on Wednesday afternoon to announce that they were returning to work.
"This dispute was not about no contract or nothing like that, it was over a safety bonus," said Wyatt.
Republic Services workers are eligible for a monthly safety bonus, which ranges from $50-$75 and represents 1.5 percent of their monthly pay. Workers said they were upset those checks, which they were scheduled to get last Friday, were delayed.
"It surprised me very much the safety checks was an issue," said Roger Lawrence, General Manager for Republic Services in Memphis.
"We had a clerical error where they didn't get them processed on Friday, so they worked late Friday night, they mailed them to us, we had them Monday morning to give them their checks," he said.
"We want them to know we want them back, we will treat them with respect, we hope very, very quickly these feelings will be behind us," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said workers will return early Thursday morning, and will work through the weekend to pick up all the extra trash.
Larger issues remain; both sides are still negotiating a long-term contract. They're scheduled to sit down at the negotiating table again on Thursday morning.
A union representative didn't rule out another strike should talks on that contract fail.