AFSCME Local 788 has received the opinion and award of Arbitrator Kenneth J. Toomey denying the union's grievance of the city's Financial Lockbox, by which residents' water, sewer and trash payments can be routed to a Glens Falls National Bank subcontractor in Hicksville, Long Island.
Previously, all payments were made through the City Chamberlain's Office, where they were received and processed by City of Plattsburgh employees.
While Local 788 believes that Arbitrator Toomey's decision is both wrong and at odds with three prior arbitration awards by three well-respected arbitrators, handed down over the past 35 years, the union does not intend to challenge the opinion and award in court.
The laws of the state of New York make clear that labor arbitration awards are intended to be "final and binding;" the grounds on which they can be overturned in court are very limited.
The arbitration hearing did reveal information that should be of interest to the Common Council and all city residents who pay those fees:
▶ Glens Falls Bank charges 40 cents per envelope to process each payment.
▶ Many payments — over 25 percent of the monies collected — are rejected by the bank's system for any number of reasons, many of them being no more than typographical errors. Data was foiled and analyzed from Sept. 9, 2010 to Jan. 7. 2011. Each day, city employees in the City Chamberlain's Office are then required to research the problems and make the corrections. The city is not reimbursed by Glen Falls Bank for the time spent by its employees on such work — Glens Falls National Bank is paid its fee no matter what.
▶ The overall value of the Financial Lock-Box contract to the city is highly questionable. With the Financial Lockbox contract having been in operation for more than 12 months, only 25 percent of the city's residents who pay their billings mail them in to Hicksville. What are the exact costs for this service?
The union filed this grievance due to that receiving and depositing money was exclusive bargaining-unit work and should not be contracted out, relying on the three prior arbitration awards in its favor.
Mayor Kasprzak has called this — and every other grievance — "frivolous." In fact, no arbitrator has ever found a union grievance "frivolous" and, with the exception of this grievance, AFSCME has won every prior arbitration under the current administration.
Contracting out has proven time and time again not to be cost effective and the work product nowhere near what was paid for.
For example, in the most recent example, in an opinion and award dated Jan. 6 of this year, Arbitrator Mary Crangle issued an order —¦direct(ing) the city to rescind and cease applying…" a work rule at odds with the collective bargaining agreement, on the grounds that it was —¦arbitrary and unrelated to the work of the (City Chamberlain's) Department…," and that the city had produced "no evidence" that its new rule was consistent with the collective bargaining agreement.
Regarding the contract, AFSCME negotiating committee added the Lock Box agreement in April 2011, along with other items never bargaining for, but again, the mayor refused to sign the memorandum of agreement.
Local 788 will continue its attempts to work with the City of Plattsburgh on issues of cost reductions and efficiency. But when the city attempts to act in violation of its collective bargaining agreement, Local 788 will continue to attempt to resolve those matters informally or through the labor-management meetings.
But when the city continues to violate the collective bargaining agreement, Local 788 will continue to make sure the city keeps its promises.
And, mayor, the type of people you are dealing with are hard working, who take on any duty given to them, with pride, regardless of all the negative statements made by you.
Denise Nephew is president of AFSCME Local 788.