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Workers back to jobs after strike

| Friday, Sept. 27, 2002

Plum Borough's clerical workers and emergency dispatchers returned to work Thursday as if it was any other day.

But it was not just any day. The workers returned at 8 a.m. yesterday after nearly three months on strike. And they came back without a contract.

Plum Borough Councilman Jeff Russo, the borough's lead negotiator and chairman of the personnel committee, said 15 of the 16 workers were at their jobs yesterday.

Russo said one employee, Debbie Mooney, the secretary in the police department, did not return and submitted a letter of resignation. Russo said the letter did not indicate a reason for Mooney's resignation.

"I have worked for the borough since 1988 and it was never a political environment until the new mayor and council came into office in January," Mooney told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review yesterday. "The micro-management was unbearable."

Mooney was also critical of handling of the police department.

"I feel they have destroyed the police department since they left the chief of police go," she said.

On Jan. 24, Plum Council fired Focareta, 53, who had been chief for nearly 10 years. Focareta, meanwhile, has filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit against Plum Mayor John Schmeck and the borough's seven councilmen.

Mooney said she has found other employment.

"Everything she said is untrue," Russo said about Mooney's comments. "Nothing is politically motivated by this council and council is trying to move the community forward."

Russo said no decision has been made about a permanent replacement for Mooney, but most likely Mooney's position will be handled by a temporary in the short run. The temporary workers were making $7 an hour.

The workers, all members of Teamsters Local 205, walked off the job July 9 after contract negotiations broke down the previous day.

Union Steward Sandy Furko said the workers decided to return to their jobs because some were becoming financially distressed.

Russo said the workers being on strike "did not cost the borough any more money, we probably saved money.

"It's not a cost issue," Russo said. "We needed to take care of dispatching and administrative help. We tried to do it at the best cost and in the most effective way. As for now, everything is back to the way it was when the strikers left."

Jeanie Pedrosky, earned income tax administrator, said yesterday she was happy the four tax clerks returned to work.

"I have put a lot of hours in," Pedrosky said. "I am tired."

Pedrosky said she had a short meeting with the clerks to bring them up to speed and "everyone dug in."

One of the clerks, Susan Parrish, said she was "glad to be off the little island (the picket line)."

Parrish said she is disappointed that after 77 days on the picket line the workers still have no contract. She said she hopes negotiations step up.

Russo said the borough is awaiting a response from the union on its latest contract proposal, which contains a wage offer, a subcontracting clause and management rights.

Union officials have said they want a no-subcontracting clause in a contract.

Russo also said the return of the emergency dispatchers has not affected borough council's investigation into transferring dispatching services from the Plum dispatch center to the Eastern Regional Communications Center in Monroeville. The move would eliminate the five dispatcher jobs in Plum.

"The talks will continue as planned," Russo said.

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