As published in the Record Journal on Saturday February 16, 2013
By Andrew Ragali
WALLINGFORD - Since Town Hall was closed Monday during the blizzard cleanup effort, Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. is asking town department heads, managers and employees who didn’t report to work to take a vacation day in order to be paid. Dickinson made the announcement in a memo addressed to all town employees on Thursday. Nonessential town employees had been told not to report to work on Monday.
“We believe that collective bargaining contracts do not require the payment of wages unless an employee has reported for work,” Dickinson wrote. “We believe that this is a fair and just resolution of the questions that arise when payment of wages to employees who have not work are raised by those employees who did work.” Some managers and employees were still asked to report to work on Monday to continue snow removal and support “public safety operations,” Dickinson said.
Shelby Jackson, president of United Public Service Employees Union Local 424-14, which represents municipal managers in Wallingford, said “members of our union have expressed concern and the memo is under review.”
He could not confirm if the union plans to file a grievance. Jackson said that, according to contract, the union has until Thursday to file a grievance.
Chuck Ballard, president of Local 1183 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing public works, clerical and sewer workers, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Dickinson explained his reasoning for the memo on Friday, stating, “I have a hard time feeling the town should be paying people when they didn’t work.”
“I don’t want to feel like we are giving money away when it isn’t warranted,” he said.
Dickinson said the employees who did have to work Monday feel “they should be paid something extra” for their time if those who were asked not to show up for work Monday are still paid.
Dickinson said he would have trouble explaining to the public “that we pay people when they are not working.”
In Meriden, Southington and Cheshire, municipal employees are not asked to use vacation days in order to receive payment for a day they were told not to show up. Those municipal governments were open on Monday.
“When we don’t open Town Hall, we don’t charge vacation days,” Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback said.
In Cheshire, Town Manager Michael Milone said charging vacation or personal time is against policy when Town Hall is closed.
“People would say to me, ‘I would have been at work if you didn’t close,’ ” Milone said. “And that’s probably true.”
Caroline Beitman, Meriden’s personnel director, said, “We cannot legally make our unionized employees use personal time if you send them home and shut down the work place.” However, she said, those who couldn’t get to work Monday had to use personal time.
According to the state comptroller’s office, hourly state employees are also paid for days they are asked not to report to work in circumstances such as Monday’s, when state offices were closed.
Workers at Wallingford Town Hall who have not accumulated vacation time will be allowed to make up the lost time. Jackson said two people in the assessor’s office, where he works, were hired recently and have no vacation time. After consulting with the town’s personnel director, Terry Sullivan, he learned that they will be able to work an extra hour per day until the lost time is made up, making Dickinson’s action “more palatable.”