By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Upset with the unilateral implementation of a blanket furlough program, a representative from one of Red Bank’s two government employee unions delivered a formal grievance to the borough council Monday night, and vowed there’d be more to come.
Kevin Tauro, who represents the blue-collar Communications Workers of America union local, filed a policy grievance with the borough, saying that it violated terms of its collective bargaining agreement. He also said he’ll file an unfair labor practice lawsuit with the state.
“I’m very disappointed in the mayor and council. I thought you’d have a little bit more respect for your workers,” he said.
Tauro is chafed on a couple different counts, he made clear. His union, which is working on an expired contract, hasn’t been given the same respect as the borough’s other union, the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, he says. The PBA was given a 3-percent raise last year, while the CWA was given just a 1.5-percent raise over six months.
This year, however, the CWA isn’t getting anything, and its members were told they must take three furlough days between now and the end of the year. Tauro said there is nothing in the contract that allows the borough to impose the layoffs, and thus the unfair labor practice suit, which he says he will “file that soon.”
“By the town saying, we’re not giving you nothing, just take the wage freeze and the furloughs, is unacceptable,” Tauro said.
Realizing what a difficult budget year it has been for the borough, Tauro said that his union workers would have swallowed the wage freeze and furloughs a little easier had officials agreed to compensate the employees when fiscal restraints ease. But he said officials wouldn’t budge.
“If there was something there for future years to look forward to, then maybe it would’ve worked out. We were willing to help the town out this year because there wasn’t room for movement,” he said. “When we got our response, it was, take these three furlough days, and we get nothing. They slammed the door shut on us, and now we’re going to have to go the legal route, which we didn’t want to do.”
Mayor Pasquale Menna said the grievance will be processed with the state. Because the borough is still in negotiations with the CWA on its expired contract, he couldn’t respond to Tauro’s accusations.
He did say, though, that the furloughs were the only move to make in this difficult budget year.
“It could’ve been worse,” he said. “It saved people from being laid off, and that’s the name of the game.”
In other news from Monday night’s council meeting:
- RiverCenter gained approval to use the White Street municipal parking lot to host the Guinness Oyster Festival on Sept. 26. This approval clears the way for executive director Nancy Adams to start talking with event coordinators and vendors to plan out the fest. Worried about scuttlebutt that Red Bank has stolen the oyster festival from Asbury Park, the city’s chamber of commerce sent a letter to local media clarifying that the Asbury Park and Red Bank festivals are two separate events.
- After weeks of prodding by councilman Michael DuPont, Menna has finally agreed to support the state’s Mayors Wellness Campaign, a statewide initiative for local leaders to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for its residents. Menna, who has recently been active by walking in the Sheehan Classic and kayaking on the Navesink, pledged to lose 10 pounds in the next 45 days to show he’s taking the program seriously.”Mike, I’ve made great progress. I walked the Sheehan. I paddled with the kayakers,” Menna said to DuPont. “God knows what will happen next week.”
- The council also recognized the borough’s teachers of the year with resolutions. The winners are: Andrew Forrest, Red Bank Regional High School; Rebecca Dorn, Red Bank Charter School; Kathleen Doherty, Red Bank Middle School; and Andrea Solange Fontenez, Red Bank Primary School.