City offers bonuses, pay increases for open positions as hiring stalls

Local

SAN DIEGO — A hiring shortage faced across industries during the economic recovery from the pandemic is also affecting the city of San Diego. The local government is boosting pay and bonuses in hopes of enticing workers to fill key positions that remain open.

At the top of their list: sanitation drivers for trash collection around the city and guards for public pools.

Trash truck drivers, who work for the city’s Environmental Services Department, can now receive $2,500 in hiring bonuses, with $1,250 paid at the time of hire and an additional $1,250 at the end of their first year. That program will be capped at 100 hired drivers through the end of June 2023, and the city says it needs at least 40 as soon as possible.

According to the city’s job portal sanitation driver trainees make about $37,000 to $44,000 a year, with increases after completing the training period. You need a valid California Class A or B learner’s permit to apply and a DMV medical certificate from within the last two years.

The city says it’s a union job, represented by local 127, that plays a key role in keeping San Diego clean and safe. The current shortage of workers “is at the most critical point in 15 years due to a surging freight economy and lack of qualified drivers,” the city said in a news release.

“Sanitation Drivers have worked day in and day out to provide critical essential services throughout this pandemic. They deserve our utmost appreciation and support,” wrote Renee Robertson, the director of the city’s Environmental Services Department. “These new programs will assist our City in hiring and retaining new qualified commercial drivers.”

“We were thinking to ourselves, how can we make our current jobs a bit more attractive to prospective candidates, especially when when candidates have so much leeway in the marketplace they can go to a variety of areas because of all the open positions out there. So you have to stand out and you have to become more competitive,” said Conrad Wear, interim deputy director of the City’s Environmental Services Department Collections Services Division.

At the same time, San Diego City Council also approved a 10% increase in pay for pool guards with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. According to the city’s job listing, the current pay for pool guards ranges from about $15 to $17 an hour.

At last tally in September, the city says it needed to hire 130 pool guards to keep pools open for regular hours, “despite continuous recruitment efforts.”

“Making sure our municipal pools are staffed with well-trained employees is our number one priority, and the lack of pool guards has severely hindered our ability to keep our facilities open to meet the needs of the community,” said Andy Field, the Parks and Rec director. “These pay increases will help the City be a more competitive and attractive place for people looking for their first job or hoping to start their career in the public sector.

You can search for jobs with the city of San Diego on its website.

FOX 5’s Ashley Jacobs contributed to this story.

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