February 9, 2023

The city government has been looking after the welfare of the volunteer garbage collectors who work side by side the city’s hired personnel, contrary to some perceptions.

Although they are not regular employees, the General Services Office does its best to provide their needs, according to GSO Head Eugene Buyucan.

There are 140 volunteer collectors who augment the city’s permanent field workers numbering 60.

Most of the volunteers are waste pickers who were displaced when the open dumpsite was closed in 2008. Most of them were also not actual residents of the city but came from nearby provinces.

“When the open dumpsite closed, they came to us asking if they could continue to pick waste and we took them in for them to continue their livelihood for their families and at the same time help us in our collection activities,” Buyucan said.

He said they cannot hire the volunteers because there are no available positions, having maximized the allowable number of plantilla positions. They also cannot create additional permanent or job order positions due to the cap in hiring and budget restrictions.

He said since the city cannot give them salaries, the office tried to request for other benefits like graveyard allowance for the volunteers, but to no avail as this was not allowed another budget rules.

Despite the voluntary arrangement, most of them were content with their volunteer status with some already serving for 10 to 15 years now, which proves the job has also been benefiting them.

Domingo Urbanozo, division chief of the GSO solid waste management division, agreed with Buyucan.

“When the open dumpsite was closed and these waste pickers lost their work, parang kinupkop natin sila by allowing them to volunteer for them to have livelihood and at the same time augment the city’s lack of manpower. We had them sign a waiver since the city cannot provide them salaries. Instead, the waste they retrieve serve as their remuneration which I believe can really sustain them. At habang tumatagal, nagustuhan na nila. In fact, many of them have been volunteers for five, 10, and 15 years already,” he said.

He said aside from the monetary benefits, the volunteers have also developed camaraderie and friendship and are now treated as family and co-employees of the department.

“They help the city and they help themselves. Nakabuo na sila ng camaraderie and relationship with our permanent employees who also care for them, inaalalagan sila. Happy sila at concerned sila sa kanila at sa pamilya nila. Despite being volunteers, napalapit na sila sa amin, hindi na sila nahihiyang lumapit,” he said.

He said the volunteers have shown dedication in their tasks and in return, the office does everything within its means to help them.

“The voluntary donations received by the office even those meant for permanent employees are being shared to them. They are also encouraged to develop their skills and are being taught skills on welding, mechanics and we challenge them not to be contented with their present status. We give them health rejuvenation and shuffling schedules to suit their physical and mental health needs. They are given personal protection equipment regularly inlcuding bota, kapote, and vitamins from the city’s funds and sometimes through donations,” he said.  – Aileen P. Refuerzo