by KAITLYN NAPLES
The Bristol City Council approved a 1.5 percent salary increase for non-union municipal workers at its last meeting, after two years of no salary increase.
Republican Councilor Ken Cockayne said he is always fiscally conservative, but he said it is “only fair” to give the employees a raise since they have been denied raises for two years. Also, unionized city workers are seeing a pay raise this year, so he said it would be realistic to give the non-union workers a raise as well.
Republican Councilor Henri Martin said he wasn’t in favor of any raises because of the $7 million deficit the city is facing.
Cockayne said because the cost of medical insurance is going up, the pay raise isn’t significant. Workers will be required to pay more for insurance, 1.5 percent, bringing the cost of insurance to 10.5 percent.
Martin and Republican Councilor Derek Czenczelewski both voted against the proposal, with the other five councilors voting in favor of it.
The city’s Corporation Counsel office also will be getting some part-time help. The council approved a position in the office for an 18-hour, $10 per hour, employee to help with clerical work. Cockayne said the office is being “slammed” with work, and could use some extra help. Martin and Czenczelewski also voted against the motion for the new hire.
The Republican councilors are still voting against a motion to allow union member Paul Keegan to serve on the city’s retirement board. A few months ago, the union members voiced their concerns with a proposal made by Republican councilors to look at privatizing some of the city work. Keegan, president of AFSCME Local 1338, was outspoken at a council meeting and criticizes the GOP’s proposal to look at privatization. Not too long after that meeting, a member of the retirement board resigned from the post. A union member must, by charter, fill that position. Keegan said at a meeting a few months ago that he asked everyone in the union if they’d be interested in serving. However, he was unsuccessful. He decided to take on the post himself. The council must approve the appointment that is made by the mayor. However last week, the council denied the motion for a third time.
Michael Petosa, president of the Greater Bristol Labor Council, said a few months ago that he had spoken with the city’s Personnel Director Diane Ferguson, who said the union could file a labor charge against the council.
Petosa called the action the Republican councilors are taking, or aren’t taking, “retaliatory” because of what was said by Keegan at a council meeting a few months back. Keegan openly criticized the Republican councilors for proposing privatization
Petosa added that if the councilors are going to act in a retaliatory fashion, they are “sitting up there for the wrong reason.”
Mayor Art Ward has said in the past he doesn’t know the ramifications if the council keeps denying the appointment.
As far as the privatization research is going, Councilor Czenczelewski said he would be sitting down with officials from the purchasing department and personnel department to find out results from the information gathered about privatizing work currently handled by city workers. The meeting was expected to happen on July 18, however results weren’t available at press time.
Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com