November 25, 2009 > SEIU and Union City still at odds over contract
SEIU and Union City still at odds over contract
By Shavon Walker
Members of SEIU 1021 and their families turned out in force at the November 10 Council meeting against section 11.03 in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the union and city. It would allow the city to outsource work to contractors and, potentially, result in redundancies.
Eleven speakers, many from Public Works' Garage, Grounds and Streets divisions, expressed their opposition to the inclusion of this clause in the MOU, saying it would jeopardize their jobs and reduce the quality of service for the city and its residents as a whole.
The union has conducted negotiations with the city for nine months, without success. Union members' salaries and wages have remained static for three years and they are being asked to assume additional responsibilities.
SEIU 1021 members neither expected nor requested pay increases and acknowledge times are difficult but feel contracting out work will do more harm than good. Additionally, many are the sole or main breadwinners in their households and risk losing a major source of income if they lose their jobs.
"The hard-working men and women in Public Works are the backbone of Union City. We always respond to an emergency. We respond, remove and repair. We respond to any calls the city has for us, ready to serve. We remove debris after a storm and help the police and fire departments to clear roads. We have the equipment. Our Garage repairs all vehicles including those belonging to the police and fire departments," stated Wayne Cruz. "I ask that we sit down and discuss the matter again to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution."
According to Matt Bauchou, Public Works employees take much pride in what they do and are an integral part of the city. They ensure safety, beautify the city, maintain parks for families, are diligent and dedicated, take ownership of their areas and work as a team. They are also trustworthy and loyal. Bauchou asked Council to recognize their tremendous contributions and value the city's [human] assets. Any decision that might affect city jobs would also affect the community.
Pat Dincognilo, a Union City resident of 27 years and a landscape contractor for 33 years, addressed Council to reinforce the message that they are a valuable resource for the city.
"I've worked with the grounds and landscape maintenance staff and it's been a pleasure. They do an excellent job; they're understaffed and respond to everything regardless of weather conditions. As a resident, I'm very proud of what my city has accomplished. They're more than staff, they're your family. They put their lives, everything, on the line. They care about their city. They're more than just employees," said Dincognilo. "You'd have to bring in multiple contractors to come close to what your staff accomplishes now. You have a great staff."
"... Tonight, we call upon you to help us in our emergency. Contracting out our work is not the solution to our problems. The level of service would decline with our city and its citizens left to shoulder the burden of this horrible proposal," said Garage worker Jay Gonsalves. "I liken this situation to when one is hungry. When hungry, you eat. You know fast food, which is definitely not good for you, can conveniently satisfy that hunger temporarily. Deep down, you know that a home-cooked meal is best for you. Mr. Mayor, council members, stay and eat at home. For many years, we've been loyal to you. Now it's time for you to be loyal to us. Please reconsider."
Not only are Public Works staff concerned, union members include Leisure Services staff. Paul Roman pointed out many employees also live in Union City; hence, their pride. At the same time, they are in great angst given the sense of hopelessness and lack of future. Like his colleagues, he feels it is in everyone's best interests to try to resolve and improve the situation by bringing proposals to the table.
"We don't come asking but rather to learn 'What can we do to help?'" explained Roman. "What affects us here affects everybody in Union City."
Richard Valle mentioned an ex parte conversation had taken place between himself and SEIU representative Sue Oszewski but did not elaborate other than to state that Oszewski knows his stance on the issue.