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PEP May 2006
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Public Employee Press

Upstate workers win $200,000 in back pay
Six from Local 376 get pay hikes and promotions after filing a grievance


GRIEVANCE over out-of-title work assignments resulted in promotions, raises and back pay awards for these watershed workers at the Ashokan Reservoir.

Six former Watershed Maintainers at the Ashokan Reservoir and the widow of a seventh shared in a $200,000 settlement of their out-of-title work grievance against the city Dept. of Environmental Protection.

In the case, which began three years ago, a hearing before an impartial arbitrator led quickly to the settlement that included raises, back pay and promotions from their Local 376 jobs to Project Manager, a position represented by Technical Guild Local 375.

“This was a huge victory for the members,” said Alan Brown, the DC 37 attorney who handled the arbitration.

“We are proud that we helped them get the right pay for the work they have been doing,” said Local 376 President Gene DeMartino. “Our local will follow up with any other members who are doing out-of-title work.”

Watershed Maintainers Eric Kight, Alysia Whitmarsh and five co-workers were DEP inspectors who protected the city’s drinking water by issuing fishing and boating permits, patrolling aqueducts, steam-cleaning boats, and posting signs and more. But in January 2003, DEP assigned them more complex tasks that went beyond their job specifications. For them to become state-certified inspectors, DEP provided training in analyzing soil and testing its drainage and excavating trenches, which called for engineering know-how.

They also began to oversee construction of in-ground septic systems at private upstate residences — jobs that can cost a homeowner $30,000 to $40,000 — to protect the city’s water supply and neighbors’ wells.

Kight and Whitmarsh kept journals noting their additional duties and responsibilities. After sharing this information with Local 376 and Blue Collar Rep David Catala, Whitmarsh said, “We decided to file a grievance to get what we deserved.”

What they deserved was pay and promotions because “their Maintainers job had become more comparable to Project Engineers who inspect commercial septic systems,” said Kight, an eight-year DEP veteran.

“Management was willing to hear us and never tried to deny us anything,” Kight said. “We presented the best case with our journals. The city investigated it and listened to us.”

“Local 376 and Dave Catala stood by us, worked hard and were nothing but supportive,” Kight said. “Site visits by DC 37 attorney Brown meant a lot and earned our trust,” Kight added. “The union and management listened to our concerns and witnessed the work we do. Win, lose or draw, we wanted someone to listen.”

While many of their new responsibilities did not fall under any city job description, both sides agreed that the career move up to Project Manager was appropriate. In the new title, their salaries went up by almost $5,000 and their weekly hours went down from 40 to 35.

“All of us care about what we do, DEP’s reputation, and our relationship with the watershed community,” Kight said. “The settlement between DEP and our union is the best for everybody involved.”

 

 

 
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