No holiday reprieve for civilian employees

By Ron Leir

While cops and firefighters were spared the municipal axe, four civilian workers were denied a last-minute reprieve in Kearny.
Eleven non-uniformed employees had been on the chopping block – slated for termination as of Dec. 31, 2011 – but two ended up being spared and five opted to retire, leaving four hanging out to dry.
Civil Service Association, Local 11, which bargains for civilian workers, has challenged the layoffs, appealing to the New Jersey Div. of Merit System Practices & Labor Relations to overturn the town’s actions, but without a court ordering an expedited hearing, it was unclear how this move would help.
Local 11’s Newark attorney Paul Kleinbaum couldn’t be reached for clarification.
Mayor Alberto Santos said that as late as Dec. 28, the town, through its labor counsel Frederick Danser, tried to negotiate a deal with Local 11 on a plan to withdraw the layoffs if the union would accept 13 furlough days for 2012.
Santos said that the furloughs (with a cash value of about $350,000), combined with the retirements, would have given the town the desired savings to cancel the terminations.
“But we failed to achieve an agreement,” the mayor said.
Local 11 President Mary Ann Ryan, a principal clerk-typist in the Fire Department and one of the four casualties, said the union membership rejected any proposal “to reopen our existing contract which runs through 2014” on the suspicion that the town would then throw out that contract and ask the members to subsidize their health benefits.
Santos said that while such an option was available to the town under state rules, the town stood ready and willing to waive that move by writing a proviso into the contract.
Ryan griped that the town’s representatives bargained in bad faith by giving the union differing amounts of savings it wanted to achieve; by insisting that anyone retiring had to leave by Dec. 31, unlike police and firefighters; and by failing to lay off by seniority.
But Santos labeled these allegations as unfounded. “We have negotiated in good faith. We presented fair proposals that would have saved people’s jobs.”
Unless there are 11th- hour changes, as of press time, here’s how the Local 11 roster scenario unfolds:
Fatima Fowlkes, clerk-typist bilingual in Public Works with about five years of service; Elizabeth Wainman, clerk in Construction Code Enforcement with about 17 years; Kerry Kosick, senior librarian with about five years; and Mary Ann Ryan, principal clerk-typist in the Fire Dept. with 29 years, are being laid off.
Ronald Ciccone, park attendant with 33 years; and Theresa Marrazzo, agency aide in the Health Dept. with about 37 years, are taking normal retirement.
Paul Ashe and Marcella Callaghan, sanitation inspectors each with about 15 years; and Karen Greb, omnibus driver for the Health Dept., with more than 10 years, are taking disability retirements.
Lorraine Clifford, senior clerk-typist in the Police Dept., with about 15 years, had “bumping” rights to another clerk-typist position in the Police Dept. held by Mary Ann Moran but Santos said the town had achieved sufficient savings in that department to retain both Clifford and Moran.
William Sanders, a parking violations officer with more than five years, was removed from the layoff list. Santos said the town “reconsidered” after being persuaded by the union that the revenues in fines levied by Sanders covered the cost of most of his annual salary.
All retirements were to take effect Dec. 31, 2011.
Asked why Ryan’s job couldn’t have been saved if the town had met its budget savings goal for the Fire Department, Santos said: “We just about met our goal there. There isn’t excess savings for a clerical position in the Fire Department.”
With this week’s filing of retirement papers by two of the three deputy police chiefs (brothers James and Jack Corbett), effective Feb. 1, 2012, Santos said he could now confirm there will be “no layoffs” of uniformed personnel in the Police Department. The same holds true for the Fire Department, he added.
Although the town hasn’t mailed notices rescinding those layoffs – because, according to the mayor, state rules don’t allow rescinding part of a layoff plan – nonetheless, “there will be no layoffs of uniformed employees in 2012,” Santos said.
Santos said the town had hoped to achieve the desired budget cuts “as a shared sacrifice across the board. I don’t want to do it on the backs of our taxpayers or our town workers. It’s very frustrating not to have an agreement with Local 11.”
But Ryan and Local 11 Vice President Shirley Manucci countered that in recent years, it’s the civilian rank-and-file who’ve been made the patsy for the town’s cost-cutting measures.
For this year, to avert the threat of 19 layoffs, Local 11 members voluntarily agreed to give back part of the pay raise they received and also accepted 26 furlough days – about 10% of their base pay. Ryan said members will also take a pay cut in 2012.
“To me,” said Manucci, “it’s union-busting, plain and simple. Since 2006, 28 people (from the local) who’ve gone off the payroll haven’t been replaced. The (town’s) only hiring has been of part-timers. That leads me to believe it’s union-busting.”
No question the public will feel the pinch, Ryan said. “Now you’ll have no bilingual person in either the Building Department or in Public Works – the two main places where that’s absolutely needed,” she said. Residents and contractors will have to wait longer to get inspections scheduled and “there’ll be no inspector to fine you for commingling garbage with plastic,” Ryan said.
Santos conceded that the public will be inconvenienced to some extent in 2012. With the retirement of assistant tax collector Jim Waller, the tax collector’s office “will close for an hour each day,” Santos said, “and it may take a couple of weeks to get a (construction) permit – a resident may not get the rapid turnaround he or she expects. We’ll try to manage it with improvements in technology.”
As part of an ongoing effort to drive up municipal revenues, Santos said that the 2012 municipal budget to be introduced in February will call for an increase in fees for park and picnic permits and for certain licenses issued by the Health Dept. and Town Clerk.
The town raised its water rates earlier this year.
“We’ve joined other towns in purchasing cooperatives so we can get a cheaper price by buying larger quantities of goods, we’re keeping all professional fees flat and we’re minimizing capital projects unless they’re funded by state or federal sources,” Santos said. “Our operational budget has been reduced by 5% over the last two years.”
Still, he acknowledged, there will likely be a “small tax increase” upcoming for 2012 because of higher insurance and utility costs anticipated.

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