By LIZ BUTTON
After Department of Public Works employees picketed Village Hall to protest what they saw as a raw deal previously offered by the village, the Teamsters Local 456 union, comprised of mostly DPW workers, and the administration agreed to reconvene at the bargaining table to hash out a new contract for the union.
The union, which represents the village’s Department of Public Works employees, members of the parking authority and the caretaker at the Bronxville Public Library, has been working under a contract that expired in 2011.
The union claims the village has given other employees substantial pay increases since its members last got one in June 2010, but the village has not offered those members raises at any point during those years. Currently, the Teamsters union does not contribute to their healthcare costs, but on April 7 expressed the willingness to do so if it meant a raise.
While the Board of Trustees was in executive session prior to its meeting, all 20 members of the Bronxville chapter of Teamsters Local 456 gathered on the doorstep of Village Hall, chanting “What do we want? Contract! When do we want it? Now!”
That night, at their annual meeting on April 7, the trustees approved the village’s 2014-2015 operating budget, which includes a 2.5 percent pay raise for the police union, 2 percent raises for CSEA employees and a 1 percent raise for non-union employees, including village justices.
After the budget passed, union representatives approac-hed the podium to argue DPW workers provide a valuable service to the community and deserve a pay raise as well.
Business agent for Teamsters 456 public works union William Visci said the union had been negotiating with the village behind closed doors since last spring and, at that time, the village “gave us a package the guys just couldn’t digest.”
At the time, the village took a hardline stance during contract negotiations, offering zero percent pay increases, but, at the same time, looking for 15 percent healthcare contributions from employees, according to Visci. After Village Attorney James Staudt invited the union back to the bargaining table in late December 2013, workers were offered a deal that was even worse than before, Visci said: a zero percent pay increase and even higher contribution to the employee healthcare fund.
It is traditional for the police union to be first among village employees to negotiate contracts with the village, since their contract gives them the right to compulsory arbitration—the arbitration of labor disputes required by law in some communities should collective bargaining fail to generate a mutually acceptable agreement—and for the Teamsters negotiations to follow and yield similar deals, but Visci said the has not gotten a reasonable offer given the depth of service to the village.
Mayor Mary Marvin, a Republican, said due to the high cost of health insurance, the village looks at the dollar value of the entire package, as it did when it came to negotiating with police, who have contributed to their healthcare for many years.
“So essentially, say if we give someone a 2.5 percent raise who pays 15 percent of a very expensive healthcare policy, to give the next person 2.5 percent who pays zero on a healthcare policy is not treating people the same,” she said.
Visci said union members are not opposed to contributing to their employee health insurance plans just as the police do.
“We’re not looking to get what [the police] get and not contribute,” he said.
Marvin said the village and the union did not actually differ in their general goals, and the village would be very willing to sit back down at the bargaining table with union representation.
Trustees jumped at the chance to praise DPW workers for their hours of labor and steadfast dedication to the village, acknowledging many of the men have worked 36 to 48 hour shifts removing snow during this past winter’s heavy snowstorms.
“We think these gentlemen do beyond an excellent job,” Marvin said. “I would argue you could tell it is Bronxville because of the street cleaning, the snow removal.”
Mike Cirillo, who has been employed by Bronxville’s public works department for 18 years, and has seen two mayors, two DPW administrators and four foremen, came to the podium to describe his experience doing a dangerous job while, at the same time, dealing with heavy rain and blackouts stemming from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, and the major snowstorms of the last year.
“It was scary being out there in that hurricane, in the rain, with the sound of breaking trees,” Cirillo said. “We’re just asking for what’s coming to us. We just want to live comfortably and be able to pay our bills.”
DPW worker Kenny Reed described working 36-hour shifts clearing snow from the roads this past winter, which was especially harsh.
“The work is exhausting, both mentally and physically,” Reed said.
With the rising costs of living, DPW workers have become hard-pressed to pay their bills; none of the members of Bronxville’s Teamsters union live in Bronxville, where the cost of living is much too high for their pay grade, Visci said.
Marvin said she was open to Visci’s suggestion that the meeting take place without a mediator present.
“This board wants a contract,” Marvin said. “These are the most wonderful men. All you have to do is see what they did this winter. And all I’d ask, things are changing, we’re in a new year; let’s just reset the button and sit down.”
Mayor Marvin could not be reached for additional comment as of press time.