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Public works contract discussed at Scott meeting

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Dean Colarosa, left, a public works employee in Scott Township for 21 years, and John Meyers of Glendale, an employee for 18 years, clean the salt from their plows after a recent snowstorm.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Don Graham, an 18-year veteran of the public works department, drains salt from a Scott Township plow after using it extensively in a snowstorm.
Randy Jarosz | For The Signal Item
Public works employee Don Graham eyes a heaping pile of salt after clearing the roads in a recent bad-weather event.

After 14 months of private negotiations, the issue of the Scott public-works department contract is taking center stage in the township.

The previous contract expired at the end of 2011, but the issue didn't come forth publicly until just before the Feb. 26 commissioners meeting, when members of the public-works crew distributed fliers asking for support at the meeting.

Gary Alward, recording secretary and chief negotiator for the General Teamsters, Chauffeurs and Helpers Local Union 249, said he wanted to bring the negotiations up at a meeting because he didn't think all the commissioners and the public were getting the full story from board President Thomas Castello and Solicitor Robert McTiernan.

“I had a copy of our last proposal that we got (Feb. 25), to make sure everybody got it and move on forward,” he said. “(It was) just so that everybody knows what's going on (and) what we've been dealing with,” Alward said.

For their parts, McTiernan and Castello objected to private negotiations coming up in public.

“I thought it was a strange tactic, and I don't know what they sought to gain by it because we were not going to negotiate in public,” Castello said. “We were not going to do it, and I thought it backfired because instead of having 100 people (from the public) there, they ended up (with a small number).”

The negotiations are down to two major issues: a “call-out board” and wages.

Castello said the “call-out board,” under which employees are called out for overtime during summer and winter months, was a “big stumbling block for the past eight months” because the voluntary system currently in place needs to be upgraded.

Township officials think calling employees to plow the roads in the winter is a management decision and should not be controlled by the employees themselves, Castello said.

“If you have someone coming out for 24 hours without any sleep and somebody else is refusing to come out, that's a public-safety issue,” he said.

Alward said the union would agree to the call-out board if township officials agree to pay salary increases with full retroactivity to the beginning of 2012. He said the union originally sought a 3.5-percent wage increase, which the township countered with a 3-percent offer.

But retroactivity is the big stumbling block, as, Castello said, township officials gave the union an end-of-December deadline to settle the contract or lose retroactivity.

“It's our position that they have basically waived retroactivity at this point because they didn't resolve it by the end of the year, which is what we wanted because of budgetary reasons,” Castello said.

Alward said he received the request to settle the contract in December and didn't have enough time to secure approval. He said no retroactivity is a deal-breaker for the union.

“They will not agree on a contract unless retro is paid,” he said. “Because it is not their fault that it went this long.”

The two sides anticipated setting up another meeting soon to discuss the unresolved issues.

“It's gone on for a while, and I think we really need to get it worked out,” said Commissioner Pat Caruso, a member of the township's negotiating team.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or dgulasy@tribweb.com.

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