Talks between Beacon Falls, unions hinge on email

BEACON FALLS — As town boards work to finish a revised town budget for next year, the town and unions are trying to reach concessions.

Talks between the town and the Town Hall, police and public works unions began in March. Correspondence between the town’s labor lawyer, Francis E. D’Urso, and union representative Donna J. Johnson from AFSCME Council 4 started earlier.

Their latest meeting Wednesday ended with no agreement.

The town wants the unions to forgo a salary increase next year and to eliminate both longevity pay and insurance buyback.

Johnson said the unions are willing to work with the town to come up with concessions, but the town has been unclear in what it wants until recently. She said they want to have a constructive dialogue, and left it that if the town were interested, the unions would meet again.

First Selectman Susan Ann Cable said the town has been clear from the start, and it would only meet again if the unions respond in writing first to a May 12 email that asks if they would agree to a wage freeze, and the elimination of longevity pay and buy backs on insurance.

Union presidents, Steve Moffat for public works, June Chadderton for Town Hall and Brian Blakeman for police, gathered Friday at the town garage on Lopus Road with Johnson. All four said they want the public to know they are willing to work with the town, and also have recommended to the town cost saving measures such as energy conservation like switching to energy efficient bulbs.

Johnson said the May 12 email she received from the town was the first time the unions knew clearly what the town wanted. She said she will email a response to the town’s demands. D’Urso said he doesn’t understand how the town’s messages have been unclear. He called it “nonsense.”

At a meeting in March, he said the unions at that time wanted to put in writing the questions they had. He said he didn’t get those questions until the beginning of May.

He also said he sent emails begging Johnson to submit them so the town could resolve the matter before a proposed town budget, which failed earlier this month, was presented to residents.

Cable said if a wage freeze for the 2011-12 year is not agreed to, the town can and will institute nine to 12 furlough days.

Johnson said the town has no authority to institute furlough days contractually, but that doesn’t mean it won’t.

Residents in a May 3 referendum rejected a proposed town plan for 2011-12 of about $5.9 million by 51 votes, or 437-386.

The boards of Selectmen and Finance have started to reduce a town budget proposal for next year, and will meet again Tuesday.