Deadline looming?

Township, union say meeting

on Feb. 3 could be last chance
By:Roger Alvarado
   Department of Public Works employees union chief Fred Eurick says it’s up to the township to make the next move to try and resolve the 2-year-old labor dispute between the sides.
   Neither side has said what issues are keeping the contracts from being approved, although Hillsborough’s workers say other communities in the area are paying more for the same work.
   Mr. Eurick said a bargaining session between the two sides set for Feb. 3 could be the answer to everyone’s problems or prove to be the breaking point.
   "It’s hard to say what they’re doing or what’s going on," Mr. Eurick said. "I can’t say too much because they could take it the wrong way and play hard-nosed, but we’ve got a meeting set and then we’re supposed to have a proposal."
   Mayor Steven Sireci agrees that the upcoming meeting could prove pivotal in reaching a resolution.
   "That’s when the next major change in status will happen," he said. "We will make a proposal and see what happens."
   Mr. Eurick continues to express frustration over the protracted state of the negotiations.
   "I’ve negotiated the last three or four contracts and these are the longest ever," he said. "All the others never went to mediation and a fact-finder."
   He blames the lack of progress in part on the township’s distaste for the arbitrator’s proposal for resolving the situation.
   "Evidently they’re not happy with what was recommended," he said.
   However, he is willing to give Mayor Sireci and the newly installed Township Committee the benefit of the doubt.
   "To be fair with the reorganization having just happened we have to be patient that things will come together," Mr. Eurick said.
   Mr. Eurick also says another thing that could delay matters is the presence of the township’s new administrator, Kevin P. Davis, and the role he decides to take in the negotiations.
   "I don’t know what that’s going to do," Mr. Eurick said. "He may have different ideas completely."
   According to Mr. Eurick, this contract will most likely be retroactive, which would lead it to expire at the end of this year if additional years aren’t worked out during these bargaining sessions.
   However, the two sides may look to negotiate a longer term deal in order to ensure they’re not back at the bargaining table anytime soon.
   "We will probably propose a longer contract," Mr. Eurick said. "But it’s hard to say. Two contracts ago we had a four-year agreement."
   "Two be honest it would probably be better for both sides to have another year," he added.
   Mayor Sireci declined to address the issue specifically, but did say that the thought of a longer term had occurred to the township.
   There are 30 Department of Public Works employees in its union. The starting salary for an employee is around $27,000, which Mr. Eurick says is on the low side when compared with other townships.
   Mayor Sireci has said he would like to see a settlement reached as soon as possible, but wouldn’t hazard a guess as to when that will be.