Warwick Crossing Guards To Be Laid Off
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian negotiated a contract with the Warwick Crossing Guard union, but it was rejected by the City Council for still being too expensive. Avedesian then solicited bids for a privatization option, but only received one. Now, he’s proposing laying off the union crossing guards and instituting a no-benefit, per-diem only crossing guard program.
The city’s crossing guards will lose their jobs as of Feb. 15, and the city will fill the positions with nonunion employees who will receive no health-care or pension benefits, Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday in announcing a solution to an issue that has dogged the city for more than a year.
Avedisian, who had negotiated for months with the current guards, who are represented by Local 1033 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said that it was time to find another option now that the City Council has rejected a tentative agreement he had reached with the union.
Although that proposal had offered some savings by including no raises for three years and keeping staff levels at a minimum, the City Council was unanimous in its opposition this month, with board members saying that the benefits were too rich for employees who work fewer than 20 hours a week.
The crossing guards, who are city employees overseen by the traffic division of the Police Department, receive health insurance, sick days and a union pension, and life time health insurance for retirees who worked for more than 10 years…. As Avedisian sought to reach a new pact with the crossing guards, their benefits package drew public fire as a prime example of a costly public service that might be better handled by a private company.
The bottom line, Avedisian said, is that the contract proposal did not pass muster with the City Council, and the administration now must find another way to provide the service….
“I have nothing negative to say about the union or the negotiations, even though we didn’t agree,” said Avedisian, who has been criticized in recent months for persisting in trying to settle with the union. “Once the council rejected the contract and we went out to bid, it left us with the ability to look at what we were getting and to see what other options we could come up with.”
NESCTC’s bid offered to provide the city with 23 crossing guards at an annual cost of about $212,200, Avedisian said. By comparison, his new proposal would provide the same at a cost of approximately $183,200 per year.
Avedisian’s plan would pay the new guards $40 per day. They currently earn between $39.50 and $42.25 per day depending on seniority.
One thing that will not change, regardless of whether the city privatizes the service or hires new employees, is that retired crossing guards currently receiving a pension and health benefits will continue to do so. City personnel director Oscar Shelton said that there are now nine retired guards who qualify for those benefits.