More than a year after CSEA, SEIU, Local 2001 filed a complaint with the Connecticut State Board of Labor Relations, a decision in favor of the town was rendered on September 24, 2012.
"We are happy that this question has been resolved," said First Selectman Gerald "Jerry" Stomski in an e-mail to Patch.
The following timeline is from the state of Connecticut Labor Department's decision in the matter of the town of Woodbury and CSEA, SEIU, Local 2001 [attached to this article as a PDF].
- May 2005: Richard Lamothe hired as Public Works supervising foreman
- February 2005: Leslie Gamsjager hired as part time clerk with the Parks and Rec Department
- 2008: Gamsjager's position became full-time.
- February 2010: The Board of Selectmen submitted its proposed annual budget to the Board of Finance. The Board of Finance modified the proposal and reduced the annual allowance for employees by $80,000.
- May 26, 2010: The budget was rejected by voters.
- June 2, 2010: The BOF reduced the allowance for employee wages by $120,000.
- Shortly thereafter, Stomski contacted Union Staff Rep. Stephen Ferrucci to discuss the proposed budget referendum. Ferrucci asked Stomski to postpone the discussion until after the budget was approved.
- June 21, 2010: At a town meeting, the requisite majority voted to eliminate the second proposed pay plan reduction.
- June 29, 2010: A budget with the $80,000 reduction in the employee pay plan was approved.
- July 8, 2010: Stomski met with Ferrucci and other union representatives to discuss the $80,000 shortfall. Stomski requested union proposals to avoid layoffs.
- Third week of July: Stomski asked Ferrucci if the union proposed a means to address the shortfall. Ferrucci said the bargaining units could not reach a consensus.
- July 23 and August 6, 2010: Letters were sent to Lamothe and Gamsjager notifying them that their positions were being eliminated due to the current economic climate, the financial difficulties the town was experiencing and the Board of Finance's reduction of $80,000 from the employee pay plan.
- Then Public Works Director , and Parks and Rec Director Jenifer Miller assumed the duties of Lamothe and Gamsjager, respectively.
- February 10, 2011: The union filed a claim with the state board alleging that the town committed practices prohibited by the Municipal Employee Relations Agency Act when it transferred bargaining unit work formerly performed by the supervising foreman [Lamothe] and the rec coordinator [Gamsjager].
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The Union's Claim
The union claimed the town eliminated the positions of two of its members and subcontracted work to the department heads in violation of the State of Connecticut Labor Department's City of New Britain and Local 1186 of Council 4 AFSCME AFL-CIO case.
The union also claimed the town violated the act by unilaterally granting benefits to the employees who were laid off, according to the decision.
Regarding the work performance that remained after the two positions were eliminated, the decision stated that there was no substantial departure from past practice and the union's complaint was dismissed.
The Impact of the Decision
Stomski said the impact will be felt by municipalities, employees and unions statewide.
"It has to do with municipalities all around the state being able to manage and decide on how to reduce the size of their government, more specifically reduce the amount of their employees," he said via e-mail.
Stomski said union employees are protected under their bargaining unit contract against layoffs.
"Usually this, layoffs, can only be accomplished due to lack of work," he said. "Most municipalities suffer from lack of funds for employees, not from lack of work for employees."
When the BOF reduced the pay plan, Stomski said that forced job eliminations, not layoffs.
"A municipality cannot transfer the work from one employee who's been laid off (or in our case job eliminated) to another employee," he said. "But we (the town) were able to successfully demonstrate to the Labor Board that the person whose position was eliminated virtually did the same work as his or her supervisor, hence there was no transfer of work from one to another. The supervisor was already doing the same job and would continue on doing so."
Lamothe had a different take on the decision's impact on the town and feels that taxes are increasing while services are decreasing.
"I am disappointed obviously but unfortunately here, it's the townspeople that have really lost," he said. "I know all the roads. I know where all the issues are and this guy Charlie [Charlie Beardsley, the present Public Works director], he might be a nice guy but he doesn't know the roads like I do and it's not his fault. He's not from Woodbury; he's from Southbury."