Garbage collectors want their wages increased to $26 an hour or $54,000 a year based on a 40-hour week - and according to people we spoke to on the parade route yesterday, they deserve every penny.

The garbage collectors have been working to rule since last Thursday, which has meant piles of trash mounting up in some parishes.

Some residents have seen rats, others maggots and most say the stench has been unbearable.

Union officials and Government won't tell us officially why the trash collectors have decided to work to rule, but a government source close to the action said it's because the workers have asked for more money, which Government says breaks the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.

While the figure of $26 an hour has been mentioned, we were unable to establish how much the workers are paid now.

While the two sides battle it out, Government announced Wednesday that it was hiring private contractors to pick up trash in "critical areas."

It is also encouraging residents to drop their own trash off at Tynes Bay.

Temporary disposal depots have also been established at eight "strategic locations". (See sidebar page.3). Most residents left their neighbourhoods yesterday to watch the Bermuda Day Parade.

We spoke to scores of them and while they all talked about the inconvenience and stench caused by the trash, their sympathies were with the workers.

One man told us: "I live in Spanish Point and the trash is still there and it stinks. People have been throwing away things from the kitchen, like bits of meat, and once the sun hits it, it smells real bad."

He added: "The trash collectors deserve $26 an hour. It's not an easy job. It's a hazardous job. They may even deserve more."

A woman from Pembroke said she put her trash out on Thursday last week and it was still there yesterday morning.

"There's a massive pile outside my neighbour's house now - that's where we all put it to be collected. They need to sort it out. It should never have been allowed to get to this point."

Danger involved

She added: "I support the workers though. There's danger involved in what they do and they deserve to be paid decent."

One man who wrote into our website from Hamilton Parish said it has been more than a week since his trash was collected.

"The cats have been having a bonanza. And it's not like people can take the trash back into their houses. Maybe when I get home this evening it'll be removed.

"I wonder if they will remove all the scattered stuff that the cats and birds have been pecking at? If not, then I am expecting that it won't be until the following Tuesday by which time we'll all have mini-landfills in the neighbourhoods."

Other people appear to have the situation under control and are adapting accordingly. One woman told us she had brought the old trash back into the house and would put it out again when she could be assured it was going to be picked up. "It's not too big a deal," she said. Government, meanwhile, is asking residents to be patient while it works with the Bermuda Industrial Union to "resolve outstanding issues."