December 22, 2008

Looking for Answers on Warwick Schools Cancellation

Marc Comtois

UPDATE: Mayor Avedisian called Dan Yorke and unequivocally stated that there was a concerted effort on the part of the school maintenance union (WISE) to not come to work. The union president is claiming that 11 of the 15 people involved didn't get a phone call from the school administration. Avedisian stated that, phone call or not, WISE workers should have figured they'd be needed to work on Sunday to prep for school on Monday. He also resolved that if this occurs again, then the city will simply meet the need with city employees and back-bill the school department.

Dan mentioned that combining maintenance positions seems like a good idea and Mayor Avedisian agreed and said they'd been trying to negotiate that for some time. However, there has been resistance.

Avedisian also implied that perhaps the Superintendent and the Director of Buildings and Grounds needed to take action against the employees who didn't show.

A follow-up caller "with knowledge of the situation" (and was sympathetic to the WISE guys) essentially confirmed that the workers were making a statement.

No one has a clear answer, but Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian called John DePetro this morning and tried to explain why the Warwick Schools were closed today. Apparently, Superintendent of Schools Peter Horoschack called school department maintenance employees in on Sunday to clean up the school grounds (parking lots, sidewalks, etc.) but got little response.

In Warwick, the independent school employees union (WISE - Warwick Independent School Employees) has been operating without a contract for a couple years and Avedisian openly speculated that the ongoing work-to-rule mindset was to blame for the large number of no-shows. Additionally, Mayor Avedisian explained how many school events have been moved, canceled or manned by volunteers (I know, I've been one of them) because janitors wouldn't come in to open schools or clean up after the events.

As in other cities and towns, the city maintenance workers and the school maintenance workers are two different entities. Situations like this make a strong case for unifying the administration of all maintenance workers, be they city-side or school-side.

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Situations like this make a strong case for firing the bastards!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at December 22, 2008 10:39 AM

Yep, "professionals".

Posted by: Patrick at December 22, 2008 3:16 PM

Maintenance workers intentionally trying to shut down school by failing to show up to work in this economy?!?!

I'm not big fan of saying "fire them" to every situation where there is a labor dispute, but with unemployment nearly reaching 10% in RI, don't you think that Warwick could find some people who actually would gladly show up to work?

I'm sure that these workers would have gotten paid time and a half and I have no doubt that there are unemployed Rhode Islanders with families to feed that could have used that extra cash around the holidays.

If the WISE janitors don't appreciate that, Avedisian SHOULD fire them and immediately post their jobs for other Rhode Islanders.

Posted by: Anthony at December 22, 2008 4:13 PM

The school facilities should be managed by the Town administration and charged back to the school dept.

As for the WISE guys, they need to be suspended or fired.

If they return, it should be as Town employees.

Posted by: John at December 22, 2008 4:32 PM

The big problem is that the school maintenance folk, and most other school employees, aren't currently considered municipal employees, so Scott can't fire them even if he were so inclined. Like many other cities and towns, Warwick has two of everything -- one "school" side and one "city" side -- even though the money is ultimately still coming out of the same pocket.

Putting children at risk like that would certainly be a cause for discipline or termination in any other line of work, regardless of who called who.

It's not often that I agree with Scott, but on this one, he's right on.

Posted by: Will at December 22, 2008 5:02 PM

Last year I saw these lazy schmucks ripping up the grass in front of the Elementary School across from my house as they PLOWED the SIDEWALKS on a Saturday morning when there was about 3" of snow on the ground. I could have cleared the walks with my leaf blower but these lazy hacks were tearing up the place so they didn't have to get out of the truck and break a sweat .. I was so shocked by this display of stupidity and laziness that I grabbed my camcorder and started filming.. This latest stunt definitely has the "UNION" label on it, but the fact that the Super was unable to say "screw em'" and get the school's open anyway is just as pathetic.

Posted by: jd at December 22, 2008 5:11 PM

We're not exactly talking the best and the brightest here. These grunts would be underqualified for employment at McD's.
Fire them!

Posted by: Tim at December 23, 2008 6:14 AM

Will, thanks for clarifying the feeding chain. So is it the superintendant of schools that should be firing them instead?

Posted by: Anthony at December 23, 2008 8:51 AM

Only in Rhode Island would union members no doubt think it witty to be known as "WISE guys"...

Posted by: John at December 23, 2008 7:10 PM
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