McCoy takes jabs over layoff notices
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Aug. 19, 2011
Vernon Mayor Jason McCoy was blasted at the Town Council meeting on Aug. 16, in the wake of layoff notices having been sent to 42 town employees. The town workers, in the sewer, public works and parks departments, are all part of labor union 1471, the membership of which rejected a temporary agreement between town and union representatives.
Michele Arn, a former Board of Education chair who ran against McCoy in 2009, said the mayor was “sacrificing Vernon” for his own agenda, and the layoffs were a “bullying tactic,” while other town employees received raises. Arn suggested that citizens of Vernon “speak up,” and talk to town council members and “insist that Vernon be restored.”
Edie Chernak, a candidate for town council, criticized the mayor for hiring an intern and a lobbyist for the town, in light of the layoffs to service employees. “You find money for things we don't need,” she said. “If you look hard enough, I bet you can find the money for the things that the town does need.”
Councilman Michael Winkler, speaking at the citizens' forum, said the layoffs were in violation of state statutes regarding labor negotiations. “You cannot punish people for being unwilling to take what you're willing to give them,” Winkler said. “Perhaps you're counting on the state board of labor relations to be a toothless tiger. I ask you to pull back these letters.”
McCoy did not speak further about the layoffs at the meeting, but the council did go to executive session to discuss a “collective bargaining” matter, according to the agenda.
On Thursday Aug. 18, McCoy said the town's hands were tied, after the collective bargaining negotiators took a temporary agreement to the union membership, and the offer was rejected. A sticking point, he said, seemed to be the specifics of workers' shift to a health savings account (HSA) as part of new healthcare insurance.
McCoy acknowledged that the union was set to file a lawsuit to stop the layoffs, but did not elaborate, other than to say that there was still a possibility that the layoffs could be rescinded.
As of press time, calls to union representative Larry Dorman were not returned.
The gap of $113,000, McCoy said, was created by the fact that the town budget was already passed for the current fiscal year, and the negotiations failed to cover that amount, while contracts are already in place for services, including some that residents had already paid for.
The services most-notably affected would be a delay in trash pickup.The layoffs would not affect sewer service, McCoy said, adding that the employees, in accordance with union rules, were laid off in reverse-seniority order, and most would likely be asked to return to their jobs, as needed, but he would not comment on any specific timeline.
“This is the way that works best, and has the least impact on services,” McCoy said, “until we're able to recoup funding and ask people to come back, but there is absolutely no timetable set.”
McCoy added that the town is looking into ways to bridge those gaps in the meantime, by shuffling duties to other employees.
“We still have a town to run, and services to provide,” McCoy said.