Manchester ordered to pay back wages, benefits to mechanics
MANCHESTER - The state Public Employee Labor Relations Board has ordered the city to pay back wages and benefits to three mechanics transferred to the new central fleet management facility.
In a ruling issued Friday, the board backed the unfair labor practice complaint brought by a unit of the Teamsters representing police support staff.
The union argued the city violated the three workers' contract by unilaterally reducing its contribution for health insurance premiums and co-pays and the differential it paid for night shifts.
The city had contended that it was no longer bound by the police union contract when it transferred the workers to the new facility last June, along with the mechanics from other divisions, including the Fire and Highway Departments.
The Fleet Management Department and facility was created as part of an effort to make maintenance of city's entire fleet of vehicles more efficient and cost-effective.
"Because the city has refused to recognize the bargaining unit status of the three mechanics, we find the city has failed to recognize and follow the (2010 contract) concerning health insurance and shift differential," the board ruled.
The city still has the option of appealing to the labor board for reconsideration within 30 days, and that ruling may be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Deputy City Solicitor Tom Arnold said his department is still reviewing the ruling and has not determined how it will proceed.
Rick Laughton, the business agent for the Teamsters unit, said he tried on several occasions to get the city to sit down and resolve the issue.
"First, they told us the mechanics were no longer members of the local, which they can't do. Only the (Public Employee Labor Relations Board) can do that," he said. "I was specifically told that there would be no negotiations."
Laughton said the city honored the contracts of the other mechanics, who are represented by different unions.
Arnold, the city's lawyer, said the other mechanics' unions had negotiated specific language in their contracts concerning a move to a new facility, whereas the Teamsters did not. He said the union had refused to negotiate changes in benefits in its current contract, which expires June 30, the end of this fiscal year.
Arnold said the pay and benefits received by the police mechanics at the new facility was in line with those of the other mechanics there.
In addition to ordering the city to halt "further unilateral changes," the ruling orders the city to abide by the current contract and to compensate the workers for lost wages and benefits as a result of its action.