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Selectmen Deny Grievance by Weston Highway Union

WESTON, Conn. – Several members of the Weston Highway Department were disappointed after the Board of Selectmen denied a grievance filed after the October snowstorm.

The grievance alleged that town officials violated the union's collective bargaining agreement after town workers were sent home during the snowstorm for an outside crew to clean up roads and tree debris.

According to the grievance, getting called off the job for an outside crew to work violated Section 5.10 of the bargaining agreement. That section states: “No outside contractors shall be hired to do the work normally performed by bargaining unit employees unless an emergency requires that necessity and only after all bargaining unit employees are being utilized.” The Highway Department workers are members of AFSCME Local 1030-041.

The grievance states that instead of allowing an outside crew, identified as Weston Arborists, to finish road clearing, town workers should have finished the job. The grievance asked the town to “cease and desist contracting out bargaining unit work” and “to make whole remedy for any and all employees on an overtime rate.” In other words, pay the town workers the money they lost as a result of the alleged contract violation.

The union representative, Al Blizzard, told the selectmen, “We are not doing this for any money. We don’t care about the money, what we do care about is the contract being honored.”

“Sending us home didn’t make for a very effective, practical use of us,” he said.

Crews from the Highway Department started road cleanup at about noon Oct. 29 as snow began to fall in Weston. Workers stayed on the job until midnight, when they were called off the roads to get sleep, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said. The workers then continued to clear roads from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30.

Town workers were sent home only after Director of Public Works Joe Lametta told her they were “exhausted and needed a break,” Weinstein said. But Blizzard told the selectmen that he never spoke with Lametta during the storm.

Selectman David Muller said he could not agree with the grievance. “Because we were in a situation where a state of emergency had been declared, we needed to rely on someone to make a recommendation as to staffing and manpower and I would abide by that decision.”

These were “extenuating circumstances where we have to be able to jump, and we have to able to rely on the information that we have in town," Weinstein said. "At the time of this action we needed to act quickly.”

Although the town denied the grievance, according to Town Administrator Tom Landry, the Highway Department can accept the denial or take the case to the state level for arbitration. The Highway Department, Landry said, has 20 days to decide its plan of action.

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