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Teamsters concerned about cameras monitoring Massena town employees

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MASSENA — A business agent representing town of Massena unionized employees said he is concerned that cameras are being installed in private areas at the Massena Town Hall and doesn’t believe town employees should be under constant surveillance when they are at work.

Teamsters Union Local 687 Business Agent Mickey S. Smith claims that town officials have refused to negotiate the use of security cameras in public areas throughout the town, but Supervisor Joseph D. Gray sees it differently.

“We have offered on several occasions to sit down to go over the capabilities of the cameras, and they have not done that,” Mr. Gray said. “We are just trying to provide security. I keep hearing the term ‘negotiable,’ and that makes it seem like Teamsters will be getting something in return.”

The supervisor said a hearing on the matter before the state Labor Relations Board will be held Oct. 17.

Mr. Smith said some people assume that because his union is opposed to the cameras,it is hiding something.

This, he said, is not the case.

“The security cameras are going to be installed in public places but also in offices where people work,” Mr. Smith said. “We’re not opposed to cameras for security reasons, but when they’re in locked areas — we just want to negotiate, and the town has refused to even negotiate. We’re not opposed to security cameras in the town hall, but we just want to negotiate. People think that just because you are opposed to security cameras you have something to hide. How many employees are working under that environment? I don’t think many do.”

Mr. Smith said the town has not informed the Teamsters whether the cameras will include visual and audio features or just visual.

“There are no plans for them to be audio in the future,” Mr. Gray said. “The purpose of these cameras is safety and security of town employees and the public that visits the buildings they own. There is no other reason for them and I have said it to Teamsters repeatedly. ... I am not going to negotiate public safety.”

Mr. Smith was adamant about the town’s supposed refusal to negotiate.

“I am willing to negotiate with the town at any time, but the town has refused to negotiate this issue. ... I don’t believe video cameras are being installed in the town supervisor’s office. If (the cameras were) at the entrance, that’s understandable. But to put them in private areas that are not open to the public...” he said. “The employees in Massena are very hard-working employees and they do their jobs well. I firmly stand by the performance of those employees.”

Mr. Gray said the dispute has been something of a misunderstanding and the union has made a conflict out of essentially nothing.

“They have taken a small issue and made a mountain out of a molehill,” he said.

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