As published in the Record Journal, Saturday September 3, 2011
By Robert Cyr
A payment of $230,000 was awarded to the 55 members of United Public Service Employees Union Local 424, a management union with positions that include town planner, public works superintendent and tax collector, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.
The amount reflects a 2.5 percent annual salary increase for 2011, he said. The first two years of the contract starting in 2009 involved a wage increase. A 2 percent increase is set for 2012, according to award documents.
Dickinson said he was not pleased with the decision, but the amount has to be found somewhere — and town officials will be meeting soon to examine municipal finances to meet the award.
“I certainly don’t agree with the philosophy that goes into it; I don’t think it recognizes in any way that our primary source of revenue is taxes,” he said. “It ignores the fact that taxes have to go up for increased costs, and that never seems to be included in the decision making. Clearly vacant positions wouldn’t be filled, unless there’s other money available.”
Dickinson said it was too soon to say whether layoffs were imminent. In a controversial move late last year, he laid off paramedic staff to meet arbitration awards with another town union. Mediating attorney J. Larry Foy billed both the Town of Wallingford and the union $10,812 each for his arbitration services.
Personnel Director Terrence Sullivan said the first area of savings that is looked at is vacant positions, and the salaries and other benefits associated with those positions are added up. But leaving those positions vacant will not be enough to pay the award.
“Then we get into the tougher area — whether or not there has to be reduction in staff because we have to pay that money no matter what,” he said.
Local UPSEU Director Wayne Gilbert was not available for comment.