Mr. Lane’s position is transfer station operator, junior grade. Al Blizzard, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1303-41, the union that represents Mr. Lane, told the selectmen Oct. 18 that according to his contract, Mr. Lane should have been been promoted from junior grade to senior grade after two years.
Mr. Lane has worked for Weston for 14 years, and has been a transfer operator at the junior grade level for seven years with no performance issues, Mr. Blizzard said. Therefore, he should have been promoted to senior grade in 2007.
The grievance states Mr. Lane “is qualified to operate all equipment and has been deemed capable of running the land fill in absence of the transfer operator with no performance issues for [more] than 10 years.”
Therefore, Mr. Blizzard said, Mr. Lane should be promoted to a transfer operator, senior grade.
However, the selectmen could not find language in the contract that requires a promotion from transfer operator junior grade to senior grade. In fact, First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said there is no senior grade level in the transfer operator classification.
Mr. Blizzard said Mr. Lane ought to be promoted to assistant transfer operator, since that position has a higher salary and is therefore senior to the post Mr. Lane currently holds.
He explained there is a “maintainer” position in the contract that is not specifically called “junior grade,” but common practice has been to move that person from a low to a higher grade after two years.
“But it doesn’t say that,” said Selectman Dennis Tracey. “The contract says the junior grade position has to be increased to a senior grade position after two years. It doesn’t say a maintainer has to be promoted to an assistant transfer station operator after two years. It doesn’t say that.”
“No, it don’t say that,” Mr. Blizzard said.
“And this was negotiated in 2010, five years after the employee started work in that position,” Mr. Tracey said. “If anybody expected an automatic promotion based on the contract language, wouldn’t they have put it in the contract?”
Mr. Blizzard said, “It is in the contract.”
“It’s not in the contract. Where?” Mr. Tracey asked. “Where does it say the assistant transfer operator is advanced to a position of senior grade? That’s not here … there’s no senior grade operator here. It’s not a position.”
First Selectman Weinstein said that is the primary issue. “We can’t just decide to promote him to a position that doesn’t exist,” she said.
She reiterated Mr. Tracey’s point that the union had three separate contract negotiations during the time Mr. Lane claimed he was due the promotion. Those were three opportunities to ask for the position and the language needed to require the promotion, but that did not happen, she said.
Other step increases
Mr. Blizzard said there are other positions within the department that have similar step increases to what Mr. Lane was requesting, but Ms. Weinstein said she does not think they are comparable.
To move from transfer operator junior grade to assistant transfer operator (the next level, since there is no senior grade operator position) would mean an increase of $6.45 per hour. “That’s a 22% increase,” Ms. Weinstein said.
When she compared it to a maintainer position moving to a junior grade equipment operator, that is a $1.45 per hour, or a 4.7% increase; the move from there to senior grade equipment operator “is just pennies,” she said.
“What you’re proposing isn’t even in line what’s thought of in terms of the other steps” in the contract,” Ms. Weinstein said.
Selectman David Muller said it seems the solution “is not an immediate one,” but rather one that needs to be tackled during contract negotiations. The union would have to “negotiate a position to which Kevin can be promoted. That seems to be the logical way forward.”
Mr. Tracey and Ms. Weinstein agreed.
“Without that in the contract, our hands are tied,” Ms. Weinstein said.
“That’s the problem I’m having,” she said. “You want him promoted to a position that doesn’t exist. And I can’t do that. Legally, I can’t do that. Otherwise, I’ll be found in violation of whatever the contractual laws are,” Ms. Weinstein said.
The selectmen unanimously denied the grievance.