Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pay for snow day?- Same city, same storm, different results

Beginning on the afternoon of Friday, February 8, 2013, a snow storm began which ultimately left the town of Wallingford, and much of Connecticut, with up to forty inches of snow. On Sunday, the Mayor of Wallingford advised the non emergency services employees of the town not to report to work on Monday. The town offices were closed, according to the Mayor, because of the unprecedented snow fall and unsafe travelling conditions. The Mayor announced on Thursday, February 14, that employees could take a vacation day for the preceding Monday when offices were closed, but otherwise employees would not be paid for the day. Unions representing various units of Town employees filed grievances seeking to have that decision reversed and employees compensated for the missed day.

On December 20, 2013 a panel of arbitrators from the Connecticut State Board of Mediation and Conciliation issued an award on the grievance filed on behalf of Town supervisory employees. The panel rejected the grievance and found no violation of the cba. It noted that the "blizzard is regarded as one of, if not the biggest storm in terms of snowfall in recent memory." On the issue of pay, however, it observed: "The issue is not whether there is affirmative language in the contract to support this action, but whether there is any language that specifically curtails or limits management's rights in this regard." Finding "no requirement that employees be paid for not working," and noting the "unprecedented emergency conditions" presented by the storm, a majority of the panel concluded that the Town did not violate the contract by the non payment of wages.

On January 9, 2014 a separate panel, addressing a grievance arising from a different unit of Town employees found the non payment of those employees in violation of their contract and ordered that they be reimbursed. The contract in this dispute contained language prescribing a normal work week as being forty hours. (This language was apparently not contained in the supervisor's contract.) The panel was not persuaded by the claimed "unprecedented" severity of the storm, and noted that the "CBA is silent as to whether the Town can require the use of vacation days for emergency closures and there is no past practice available to support the Town's position." Sustaining the grievance the panel concluded:

Article 6, Section 1 of the CBA sets forth the normal work week of Town employees which may not be altered by a unilateral decision to close Town offices even when a major snow storm creates challenging conditions for Towns and their employees.

The Record Journal reports on, and links to, the decisions, Differing labor decisions stump Wallingford officials (scroll down), and notes that grievances filed by Unions representing other town units are pending.

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