Tension escalates over expired Greenport labor contract

06/12/2011 9:38 AM |

Are relations between the Greenport Village administration and its Civil Service Employees Association members turning ugly?

The 23-member union is in mediation with village officials to try to resolve an impasse on a new contract nearly one year after the previous agreement expired.

But tension has gradually been building between the two sides this spring.

“We have been working with an expired contract for almost a year now with very little to show for our efforts to negotiate in good faith with village officials,” said unit president and village building inspector Eileen Wingate. “We will continue trying to find common ground and remind the mayor that 72 percent of our unit members work in revenue-generating positions, which means the village is not solely reliant on taxes for its income.”

But Mayor David Nyce disagrees.

“[The village put] a very fair offer on the table,” he said. “As from the start, the village continues to bargain in good faith toward a mutually beneficial agreement.”

Neither side offers any hint of how far apart they are from a settlement, but the mayor said one mediation session has already been held and a second was scheduled for mid-June.

In a written press release entitled “CSEA members generate revenue for Greenport Village,” union communications specialist Rich Impagliazzo outlined the work union members perform.

The village is unique among East End municipalities because it operates its own electric and waste water treatment plants, Mr. Impagliazzo said, crediting employees with providing services to village.

“Some of their duties include maintaining the generator at the heart of the [electric] facility with periodic inspections, logging its temperatures, pressures and other important information at regular intervals and starting and stopping it as necessary,” he wrote. They repair mechanical and electrical equipment, fix problems to enhance the facility’s reliability and respond to emergencies resulting from severe weather conditions, he said.

For the waste water treatment system, union members oversee not only operations at the main plant on Moore’s Lane, but at eight pumping stations throughout the village that collect sewage from houses and businesses, and channel it through the central location to effectively cleanse it for proper discharge into Long Island Sound, he said.

“Union members make sure this system continues to operate at peak efficiency by keeping the stations and lines clear so they’re able to maintain an adequate flow as they move toward the treatment center,” he said. The workers handle mechanical and maintenance work and one worker also maintains the carousel in Mitchell Park that draws residents and visitors and brings revenues into village coffers, he said.

“[Highway department workers] concentrate on the important tasks of snow and garbage removal, lawn and park maintenance, pothole repair and street cleaning,” Mr. Impagliazzo said.

Other union members oversee the Section Eight housing program, the recreation program and the building department, he said.
In early April, CSEA members staged a silent sit-in at the Village Board’s reorganization meeting. Dressed in CSEA T-shirts, about 15 of the 23 union members filed in, took seats and listened without comment.

Later in the month, CSEA Riverhead unit president Matt Hattorff led a delegation to another Village Board meeting, this time abandoning the silent posture and asking village officials to return to the bargaining table.

“There has to be a point where both sides can come together,” Mr. Hattorff said. “Greenport’s a beautiful town and it’s kept that way by our members.”

“All we’re asking for is to be treated fairly,” CSEA member Peter Collins said.

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