December 29, 2007

Warwick Crossing Guards To Be Laid Off

Marc Comtois

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.

About time.

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I think we can at least call that a first and ten.

Posted by: Greg at December 29, 2007 7:57 PM

You get NO credit Scott. You better run for a downticket post where we will hold our nose and vote for you. You don't have a prayer for the top spot.

Posted by: Mike at December 29, 2007 8:21 PM

Let the Avedesian bashing continue.
Scott, there's absolutely nothing you can do to satisfy those who call you RINO - you made a tough call here, but no more concessions to that crowd, mmmkay?

Posted by: rhody at December 29, 2007 8:47 PM

File it under "better late than never." However, I agree, Scott was dragged to this one BY DEMOCRATS, so no points scored on that play!

Continuing with the football analogies ... at the end of the first quarter, the score still remains Laffey 1, Avedesian 0. 3 more quarters to go.

Posted by: Will at December 30, 2007 1:22 AM

The Democrats pulled a brilliant political maneuver on higher-office aspiring Avedesian.

Consider: by publicly "bucking" the union - albeit presumably with the union's back-room permission, especially considering the lop-sided vote - the Democrats forever tarred Avedesian as a union lackey; the symbolism vis-a-vis crossing guards and what Laffey did in Cranston could not have been lost on the Democrats.

A political chess-master move on the Democrats' part.

Posted by: Tom W at December 30, 2007 11:22 AM

As I've said too many times, the Dems play long ball WAY better than we do.

Posted by: Greg at December 30, 2007 12:18 PM

As I have read, Avedisian has been fighting like heck to keep the unionized crossing guards, and ridiculing those on the council that questioned his motives. Ed Achorn called him out for a lie in column a couple months ago, and Avedisian still can't show executive leadership by ending this travesty once and for all. Rumor has it that he gets a lot of contributions from the Laborers Union, which probably explains two things: (1) why he continues to defend the indefensible, and (2) why he won't have a primary chance against Laffey. Where is the governor and the other statewide GOP on this? Don't they realize that Avedisian's letting the Dems outmaneuver the GOP on an issue that should belong to Republicans?

Posted by: Jackson at December 30, 2007 7:18 PM

Would that be the same Laborers Union - LIUNA - that has a history of involvement with organized crime?

Would that be the same Laborers Union - LIUNA - that has a history of involvement with organized crime and buying off Democrats in order to take the heat off?

Would that be the same LIUNA that until recently was run by Arthur "I drive Ferrari's but don't pay sales tax on them" Coia?

Would that be the same LIUNA on whose payroll Frank Corrente resided (while negotiating contracts on behalf of the taxpayers of Providence) and from whom he is now collecting a pension (the amount of which LIUNA won't disclose)?

Would that be the same LIUNA, headquarted in Providence, whose building was (is?) partially owned by the same Frank Corrente?

Would that be the same LIUNA on whose payroll resides General Assembly Democrat Leadership Paul "Pat you down looking for a wire" Moura?

Gee Scott, ever hear that phrase when you were a kid: "You can tell a lot about someone by the company they keep!"

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2007 8:37 PM

--H. Coia Jr's., daughter dated Philip Ottovani the owner of the Union House restaurant and a LIUNA official himself. Because of a falling out between Coia Jr., and Ottovani, the daughter broke off the relationship. The daughter then started dating then married Darren Corrente, the son of Frank Corrente. The younger Corrente is now a Junior partner in the Coia- Lapore law office.

--The Coia-Lapore law offices have received over 1033 and is currently under review by the Rhode Island Bar Association for possible conflict of interest violations. Frank Corrente an employee of the City of Providence and a partner in the Gateway Building Project has already been sited by a Rhode Island Ethics Panel for his role in the 1033 contract and its renting space in the Gateway building. The plan also developed a non interest bearing checking account with the Heritage Loan and Investment Co.(The FBI has linked the defunct bank and its chief official Joseph Mollicone to Raymond Patriarca Jr.)

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2007 8:50 PM

Providence Journal (1995):

The Gateway Affair: A national union leader. A key Providence official. Two old friends. How their private and public interests crossed in a downtown real estate venture

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2007 9:06 PM

A member of the union while "negotiating" with the union:

Providence Journal 12/27/2007: Corrente to fight for his Providence pension

" Unaffected by the board, Corrente draws another pension from the Laborers’ International Union of North America as the result of his municipal employment. He was a member of Local 1033 during all or part of his employment and both he and the city paid into a union pension fund in his behalf. The Laborers won’t divulge the amount of that pension."

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2007 9:15 PM

As I said (from the ProJo 1992):

Power Behind Cianci's Throne 'one of the boys'

"While some may dispute the flow chart's top level, few in City Hall would contest the order of the next two. As the city's director of administration and the treasurer of the Cianci for Mayor Committee, Frank Corrente is second to just one. And when it comes to dealing with municipal unions, he is largely by himself as the city's chief negotiator ..."

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 30, 2007 9:26 PM

I was just flipping past again and this caught my eye:

"... there are now nine retired guards who qualify for those benefits."

How does that conversation go at cocktail parties?

"Nice to meet you, Bob. What do you do?"

"Well, I'm retired, collecting a city pension."

"Oh, yeah? So what'd ya do for the last couple of decades? DPW? Keep the peace? Pull people from burning buildings?"

"No, I was a crossing guard two hours a day. Actually, only for ten years ..."

Posted by: Monique at December 31, 2007 2:16 PM

Another Projo article on this topic today. Surprise, but the LIUNA union is planning to fight their layoffs. The union says that the livlihoods of their working people depend on these jobs.......1 hour a day (the article says 3-4 hours a day, which is a joke). Crossing guards a livlihood?.....

Why did the city reject the private bidder? I couldn't make that out from the article, but maybe somebody here knows more.

Posted by: Jackson at January 1, 2008 10:49 AM

IIRC, the city's proposal (not sure if it came from the mayor's office or the council) came out to $30,000 less than the bidder's.

Posted by: rhody at January 1, 2008 12:49 PM

Since the administration wanted to keep the unionized contract, I suspect that their "proposal" is missing some key elements, like workers compensation costs, liability insurance costs, administration costs, etc. Since this is the same mayor that argued in various newspapers that expected unemployment costs (which are one-time and short-term) were a reason to keep the status quo union contract, I wouldn't put much stock into their numbers.

Posted by: Jackson at January 1, 2008 3:13 PM
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