NAUGATUCK — Officials reluctantly agreed Tuesday to award compensation time to police dispatchers who are ordered to work during emergency situations, such as snowstorms.
Dispatchers in UPSEU, Local 424-Unit 15-B, filed a grievance last year stating that they should be compensated for storms that occurred last February when Town Hall was closed and non-essential municipal staff were paid, even though they didn’t come to work. They also want to be compensated for any future storms.
The dispatchers filed the grievance based upon what they believe is a violation of their contract, which states that in an event of an unanticipated holiday — which a snow day would be considered in this circumstance — the bargaining unit members who have to work shall receive the equivalent amount of time off with pay to be used at a later date.
The dispatchers were also upset after learning that two people who work in maintenance at the police department, plus the dog warden, were given compensation time after being ordered to work during storms on Feb. 8, Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, 2013.
The borough originally contested the dispatchers’ grievance, but ultimately found it was easier to settle and attempt to resolve the disagreement through new language in future contracts.
Mayor Robert Mezzo said the grievance had “little merit.”
“But our negotiating team was concerned about the ramifications of arbitrating the matter at this stage of the process, under our current collective bargaining system,” he said. “Without getting into negotiating strategy, it is certainly something we will revisit at the table in future negotiations.”
He said officials tell non-essential personnel to stay home during some storms to ensure public safety.
“But the current collective bargaining system, and the way some use it, force management always to consider consequences that shouldn’t be the priority,” he said.
Diane Dutton, a police dispatcher and vice president of the dispatchers’ union, said she believes the agreement is fair and noted that the union compromised on some issues, including a provision that only the people who work during storms, as opposed to all dispatchers, will be given compensation time.