Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Union to file formal complaint over McCoy layoffs

By Suzanne Carlson
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, August 17, 2011 1:07 PM EDT

VERNON — Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy took heat from angry Democrats at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting after 42 employees in Public Works and the Parks and Recreation Department received layoff notices Monday.

And an official for the displaced workers’ union said he will file a formal complaint against McCoy with the state Labor Relations Board over the layoffs.

“I can no longer stand by while you flush Vernon down the toilet,” former Democratic mayoral candidate and Board of Education candidate Michele Arn said. “You are an embarrassment to those of us who truly care about our town.”

Arn, Democratic council candidate Edie Chernack, and Michael Winkler, a Democrat on the council who spoke as a private resident, all sharply criticized McCoy, but no Republicans spoke out for or against the layoffs and the council only discussed the issue in closed executive session.

Chernack told McCoy she found it “interesting” he found enough money in the budget to pay $937.30 per week for a personal intern, $30,000 for a lobbyist, and give raises in excess of 3 percent to highly paid administration employees, while still blaming the layoffs on budgetary constraints.

“You found money for things we didn’t need. If you look hard enough, I’ll bet you’ll find the money for the things that the town does need,” Chernack said.

Winkler said he’s been involved in state employee collective bargaining for more than 30 years, and union members cannot be punished for such lawful, protected union activities as negotiating a contract.

“You cannot punish people for being unwilling to take what you’re willing to give them when there is a collective bargaining statute in place and a procedure to go before an arbitrator and get a settlement,” Winkler said.

McCoy noted the layoffs in his address to the council but did not comment publicly or return phone calls today.

Town Attorney Harold Cummings said he’s not familiar with the details of the issue and referred all questions to the town’s labor lawyer, Edward “Bud” O’Donnell, who did not return phone calls.

Republican William Campbell said today that McCoy explained the situation to council members in executive session.

“We regret the need to take such actions and we hope that it’ll be resolved without the layoffs,” Campbell said.

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 4 Local 1471 spokesman Larry Dorman said Tuesday the union would file a complaint against McCoy and the town over the layoffs and would seek an emergency injunction to prevent them from happening.

He described the layoffs as an attempt to “coerce and intimidate our members in violation of municipal labor law.”

It’s unclear whether the layoffs are strictly a threat meant to cow the union into taking what’s been offered — a 2.5 percent pay increase and 10 percent employee contribution toward health insurance — but there doesn’t appear to be any contingency plan should the layoffs go forward as scheduled.

Though McCoy did not return phone calls, he did send an email today, saying criticisms of him were politically motivated personal attacks and “those people do not care about the situation or the people involved.”

He indicated in the email the layoffs would indeed go forward, adding need and funding would determine whether any employees are recalled within the next year. But he did not provide a plan for service in the meantime.

He said the union arbitrator is not available until October and the town has not been given any reason for the delay or why the temporary agreement with a 2.5 percent pay increase was rejected.

McCoy went on to say that $113,000 is “the effect of rejection” but did not say what that figure refers to or why it’s important.

“The membership at 1471 ordered layoffs, not the Town, not its negotiating team, not the Mayor,” McCoy said.

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