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PEP Dec 2006
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Public Employee Press

Callback at School Construction Authority


Civil Service Employees Guild Local 375 President Claude Fort, sixth from left, gathers with localofficers, staff and members at the School Construction Authority to celebrate the tentative call-back deal.

An agreement calls for the rehiring of 67 Local 375 members laid off in 2003 and the hiring of an additional 23 technical and professional workers.

By GREGORY N. HEIRES


The union reached a tentative accord with the School Construction Authority to recall 67 Local 375 members who were laid off in 2003.

The agreement — which was awaiting a judge’s approval as PEP went to press — also calls for the hiring of an additional 23 professional and technical workers at the SCA.

“This is a tremendous achievement for DC 37 and the local,” said Claude Fort, president of Civil Service Technical Guild Local 375. “We have been through a long fight, but we were determined not to let this illegal firing stand.”

The 67 members from the SCA’s architecture and engineering unit were among 102 Local 375 members laid off in 2003 because of cutbacks. DC 37 vigorously opposed the job cuts, arguing that the downsizing would undermine the SCA’s ability to design and inspect school projects.

In the lawsuit, the union charged that in carrying out the layoffs, the SCA violated its legal obligation to use the in-house staff to perform 40 percent of design and inspection work. Years ago, Local 375 lobbied for the 40 percent rule to be included in the legislation that established the SCA. The SCA was set up in 1988 to manage the design and renovation of capital projects at the city’s 1,400 schools and oversee the construction of new schools.

Even before the lawsuit, Local 375 had contended that staffing at the SCA fell below the legal requirement and had pressed for years for more hiring.


District Council 37 and Local 375 leaders and negotiators meet June 30 with city officials to discuss, rehiring of Local 375 members laid off in 2003 who did design and inspection work at the SCA.

A long battle
The employment target resulted from a series of technical meetings among Local 375 and DC 37 officials and SCA representatives. Through discussions, both sides came up with a complicated formula to calculate staffing levels for the in-house design and inspection work.

“I am very happy with this agreement, which should help rebuild the design and inspection capability of this agency,” said Zygmunt (Ziggy) Jagiello, president of the local’s SCA chapter. “This has been a 42-month long battle for the union, and as chapter president, I have received countless phone calls from laid-off employees over that period,” he said. “This was a very disheartening situation, and many of the affected people couldn’t find long-term employment or employment at other city agencies.”

With the help of DC 37 and Local 375, some of the affected workers found positions at the Dept. of Design and Construction, the Dept. of Environmental Construction and other agencies — and others were even hired as consultants at SCA. But these workers typically faced significant salary decreases or reductions in their benefits.

A major gain in the agreement is that rehired workers who weren’t lucky enough to find a new job at a city agency should be able to buy back lost pension credit. The agreement calls upon SCA and the union to work together to secure the passage of state legislation to permit the pension buy-back. The DC 37 Political Action and Legislation Dept. and the DC 37 Legal Dept. will work on the buy-back legislation.

“I really feel the rehiring is an important example of the positive difference a union can make in people’s lives,” Fort said. “The layoffs were an injustice that disrupted lives. The union fought for these workers and won back their jobs.”

Attorneys Robert Burzichelli and Harry Greenberg handled the lawsuit. With the support of Executive Director Lillian Roberts and Associate Director Oliver Gray, the union team led by Fort included Jagiello and Local 375 members Joe Miraglia, the chapter secretary, and Chapter Treasurer Ramesh Patel and Peter Percudani at the SCA; General Counsel Eddie Demmings and Associate General Counsel Mary O’Connell of DC 37 Legal Dept.; Director Dennis Sullivan and Assistant Director Frank Burns of the Research and Negotiations Dept.; Director Stephanie Velez, Assistant Directors Hector Coto and Maynard Anderson of the Professional Division, as well as Local 375 1st Vice President Jon Forster, 2nd Vice President Michelle Keller and advisor Leon Soffin.

“This victory shows that once you’re a member, you will always be part of the DC 37 family, even if you are no longer on the city payroll,” Roberts said. “These 67 recalled workers are a very special group who will ensure that the SCA guarantees that public schools are structurally sound.”

 

 

 

 
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