DPW union says city not bargaining in good faith

Tom Duggan

LAWRENCE - Members of Lawrence’s Local 3 Firemen and Oilers Union responded to comments by Lawrence Personnel Director Frank Bonet and Lawrence Mayor Mike Sullivan regarding the union’s participation in contract negotiations. 

In last month’s Valley Patriot, Lawrence’s Personnel Director said it was “a disgrace” for any union to hold the city’s students hostage to achieve their own “selfish demands.” (Story here)

“I can’t understand why a labor union would use children to gain an advantage in their demands,” Bonet said.

The comments were in response to what Bonet said was a city union threatening to kill a summer jobs  program for Lawrence’s young people. A charge that the union says is not true, claiming that comments made at the negotiating table were being “blown out of proportion” by Bonet.

 “When we’re behind closed doors everything is supposed to be private until the contract is signed by all parties,” said union member Bernard Hester.

“For him to go to the media and say that stuff was against the accepted rules of union negotiating; not to mention the fact that it wasn’t true.”

 “The meeting started off with them saying they were going to bring back summer programs. We just said, ‘we think you need to look into this before you bring on these kids, because we’ve had people laid off and there’s a previous case on this that the union has won.’ It says you can’t hire temporary help unless you first bring back laid off employees,” Hester said.

“It says, ‘the city agrees it will no longer employ temporary workers to perform bargaining work outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement. All employees will perform work in the scope of the collective bargaining agreement.’”

Shop Stewart Denise Mailloux said she found it “very distressing” to read Mayor Sullivan’s quotes in the Valley Patriot story where he said, “For someone to think that the city will buckle under threats of bogus grievances and arbitrations better begin to think about how they can assist this city in its goals instead of taking advantages of its children.”

“This article made our union sound so terrible. It made us look like we don’t care about the youth of the city and that’s so terribly wrong,” she said.

“Listen, we love those kids,” Hester continued.

“I was in charge of those kids. It was extra work that I took on myself to work with those kids. I did their paperwork, I was their supervisor, I met with their counselors, I never got a stipend like some of the other employees in the city who get extra stipends for doing extra wok. So, when they say we don’t care about the city or the kids in this city they are wrong, we care about the kids…”

“But we also need our laid off employees back,” Mailloux added. “It’s not that we don’t want to cooperate. That is so far from the truth. It’s just that, right is right and wrong is wrong. And the fact that we are the bad guys here while they’re breaking a contract that the mayor signed, is just not right.”

“It’s not only with us though,” Hester added. “It’s the Foreman’s Union and the Public Property Union. They’re taking things away that are in a signed contract and they just don’t care. With the vehicle gas allotment, Mr. Andrews (City Budget and Finance Director) decided that he was going to stop paying them unless they singed a contract that says that we can go back to a biweekly payroll. You can’t just take away something in a contract and then offer it back if we give up something else in a contract.”

Mailloux says the Local 3 union has been without a contract for two years.

“The workforce down here has always suffered when the city has been in a financial crisis. Now they are going to the media and making, what I feel, are very unfair and untrue comments about our union. It’s distressing how we’re treated,” she said.

Hester said that it would have been irresponsible not to remind the city of previous court cases that could be used by a laid off union member to file a grievance.

“We know there is court case there and an agreement is in place. We can’t just turn our backs on our employees and pretend it doesn’t exist. They have families, they have kids, and they have mortgages to pay. How would we look if we didn’t do what they elected us to do? They (city officials) led us to believe that once they raised the taxes that everyone was coming back. Now we are hearing nobody is coming back and there could be more layoffs.”

“Yet, they want to give Mark Andrews a $140,000 job. Where is that money going to come from?” Mailloux asked.
The Firemen & Oilers Local 3 has sixty-four members with four of them currently laid off.

Lawrence Personnel Director Frank Bonet said he stands by his statements that the union was using the summer kids program as a bargaining tool at the contract negotiation table.

“My only hope is that we can move the city forward and people will come together to resolve these issues,” Bonet concluded.



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