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Town Needs to Negotiate With Public Works Union

Contract needs to be honored, Gambardella says.

To the Editor:

In his own words, Mayor Jackson provides his reason why he believes the town will prevail in his decision to fire Public Works employees: “The fundamental basis of the decision is egregious,” said Jackson. “We are all obligated to live within the four corners of the contract and that decision is far outside the four corners, not to mention that it relied on an agreement that was crafted when I was a junior in college. The world and government have changed significantly since then.”

If we are to breakdown his comments into two components, we derive the following: 1) he admits the town should live within its contractual obligations (“live with the four corners of the contract”) and 2) he believes that with the passage of time (“I was a junior in college”), those obligations should be invalidated.

I would say his comments are disjointed and mutually exclusive. Yet, he is willing to spend tax payer money in pursuit of an argument that doesn’t make any sense to even the most disinterested observer.

Mayor Jackson had this to say with respect to funding his appeal: “The town could find the money to pay the employees to return if it had to, Jackson said. We’re a $180 million corporation. The money would have to come from somewhere...”

Did you notice the last statement? Let me explain where the money is coming from, since the mayor doesn’t seem to understand how the town will pay for this appeal.  The money is coming from you and me. It’s simple, the mayor spends and we pay in the form of higher taxes.

The simple truth is that all the contracts we now have in force have been lawfully negotiated by the party that has been in power for about 20 years. The stipulations and agreements contained within the contracts have long been traded away for votes. Now that the full scope of these agreements is finally getting the attention of the taxpaying public, the administration is back tracking.

My suggestion is that the administration work with the Union to reach an agreement through the give and take process of negotiations. Mayor Jackson cannot simply wish the contract provisions away or use the courts to do his dirty work. I am convinced the town will lose the appeal.

I would like to leave you with these thoughts as reported in the New Haven Register: “Meanwhile, the town could face further action from the union, which could seek to enforce the arbitration award by going to court to ask for double damages and attorneys’ fees, Gilbert said. The union is going to exercise every option available under the law to enforce the arbitration award. It could cost tens of thousands to rehire the public works employees. The town recently lost a similar case with the parks and recreation union and it is costing nearly $200,000 to put four parks maintainers and one secretary back to work, plus $137,000 in retroactive pay.”

Enough said.

Ron Gambardella
7th District Legislative Council Candidate 

Peter Braun September 30, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Ron, I am not so sure I understand both sides of the story. Is it true that the workers were laid off because the union chose not to negotiate in the first place? That is the way I understood it. Am I wrong? If I am right then Scott Jackson already tried to negotiate and that was a dead end. I believe government needs to operate within its means and to simply tax more to spend more is a problem. I don't want to see the town spend more money on attorneys fees and court costs if they don't have to. We know where that money comes from, however, your analysis of the problem just looks like a political statement. This is the problem us taxpayers face. We have two political parties defining the issue by pointing their finger at the other side and each side offers solutions that are only election banners. We see it on the national level. President Obama has a jobs problem and his answer is to offer solutions that demonize the Republicans but in the mean time nothing is done. The Republicans respond by standing firm on "their principles" and still the problem is not solved. Your solution to our little local problem is no different than what we see at the national level. Two sides throwing sticks and stones and the taxpayers paying the bill.
Ron Gambardella October 01, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Hi Peter, I appreciate y our comments and welcome open discourse on the issue. My sources tell me the Union tried to negotiate in good faith. Despite specific language in the contract prohibiting the town from firing Public Works employees, the administration proceeded to terminate the employees. The contracts the town now must abide were negotiated primarily by the folks that have run this town for years. I recall voting no on every labor contract that was brought before the council during my previous term of office. I voted no not because I was anti-union, but because I realized that the provisions in the contact could not be sustained and would create an economic burden on the town that could only be paid with higher and higher taxes. It was clear to me at that time that the contracts were a first installment on a promise made during Mayor Henrici's campaign. It was also evident that the majority of the Legislative Council members did not read the contracts. Consequently, our current problems stem from contracts that disproportionately disadvantage the town. Mayor Jackson participated in the contact negotiations while working for then Mayor Henrici. It is now disingenuous of Mayor Jackson to back away from the agreement he helped craft. The purpose of my article is to point out the hypocrisy of the administration and hopefully provide a second opinion on the topic in and effort to get the public more involved in local issues. I hope this helps.

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