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Suffolk union, citing contract, seeks to stop 35 guard layoffs
Suffolk’s largest union has filed a grievance against the county for laying off 35 security guards, claiming their contract bars the county from firing employees to hand their work to outside firms.
It is the first formal action by 6,500 member Association of Municipal Employees against the 315 layoffs undertaken by County Executive Steve Bellone and approved by the county legislature earlier this month.
Frank Casiglia, AME’s executive vice president, said the grievance to block the security guard layoffs was filed last week. If no resolution is reached through talks directly with the county, the issue would go to arbitration. union officials say.
Casiglia said the the county by including the security guards in the layoffs and dislosing plans to replace them with a private security firm in resolution backup material, violated county contract with the union which states “The county will not lay off AME employees as a direct result of an assignment of unit work.”
He added that there are other contract sections which bar the county from assigning new unit work to other agencies without giving the union at least 10 days notice and allowing them to offer alternatives to the county plan. In the case of the pending layoffs, Castiglia said none of those those provisions were followed.
Vanessa Baird-Streeter, spokeswoman for the county executive, said the administration has not hired any private firm to replace workers so it has not violated the contract. She said the county will advise the union within the proper time frame should it decided to move ahead.
The layoffs, scheduled to take effect at the end of June, were already included in this year’s budget and officials say any restorations would only deepen the county’s $530 million shortfall. Executive Steve Bellone is now looking for union workers to pay up to 25 percent of their health insurance premiums as a way to avoid further layoffs.
AME president-elect Dan Farrell and exiting president Cheryl Felice met with Bellone labor negotiator Paul Margiotta yesterday for the third time, but reached no agreements, said Baird-Streeter.
Earlier in the day, Public Works Commissioner Gil Anderson said that he has made a request to the administration to restore nine jobs in his department which would be paid out of projects funded by state and federal aid. He estimated there are $24-26 million in aided projects where the county now uses outside consultants at a higher cost, which could fully occuped by existing county workers, now slated for layoffs. He said he has received no anwswer from Bellone or his budget aides.