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Carthage/ West Carthage boards respond to sewage plant grievance


CARTHAGE — A grievance concerning the layoff of an employee at the joint sewage plant has been denied.

Teamsters Local 687 business agent Mickey S. Smith aired a grievance before the Carthage/West Carthage Water Pollution Control Facilities management board Feb. 19.

Referring to an opinion from attorney Sarah Ruhlen, Mr. Smith said the board committed an improper practice by “unilaterally contracting a bargaining unit employee’s sludge hauling job.”

Following the breakdown of a dump truck, the board decided to contract with Waste Management to deal temporarily with sludge disposal while seeking a long-term solution. In January the board decided to lay off Gregory Pinkham, wastewater treatment operator trainee, because of a lack of work. Mr. Smith claimed that Mr. Pinkham did more at the plant than haul sludge and that his dismissal left the plant short-handed.

The villages’ boards met jointly Feb. 24 and — following an executive session — approved a response drafted by attorney Mark G. Gebo with revisions.

The revised letter, dated Tuesday, said Mr. Pinkham had not been sent to training because the board had been discussing the “staffing levels and operational needs of the Sewer Treatment Plant.” In light of the cost of obtaining and maintaining licenses, an analysis of the situation supported staff reduction. “The layoff decision was one based upon staffing levels needs and based upon economic and inefficiency concerns for the plant,” the response said.

Furthermore, the board determined that with the change in staffing, sludge hauling could not be done internally. The job description for all remaining employees did not include hauling sludge; thus it was not exclusive work of the bargaining unit. In addition, hauling requires a commercial driver’s license, which none of the employees has.

“Indeed it had never been intended to be bargaining unit work,” the letter states. “The village had allowed Mr. Pinkham to haul the sludge as he coincidentally had a Commercial Driver’s License.”

A financial analysis “showed clear savings to the villages by using outside contractors to haul the sludge rather than hiring personnel and purchasing and maintaining equipment to do this in-house.”

If the response is found unacceptable, the union has 10 working days to refer the grievance to binding arbitration through the Public Employment Relations Board.

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