“We voted no,” AFSCME Local 1039 President Keith Nylund said. “There’s a lot of situations going on that just wasn’t fair to us. They were not guaranteeing that there wouldn’t be any layoffs; they need to create a couple of positions at the Wastewater Plant. We’re not going to get reimbursed for the time when we didn’t get our raise when everybody else got theirs. And we wanted no new hiring, no raises. It’s just a big mess.”
In March and April, Portsmouth City Council worked on the city’s budget deficit, and finalized the budget after the FOP, Firefighters Local 512, and apparently AFSCME members, decided to forego a scheduled 3 percent pay increase to help City Council cut the city’s deficit. However, the city still ended up with a deficit of more than $1 million, and Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray could not promise there would not be layoffs, leading AFSCME members to re-think their decision.
“We don’t want to make it sound like we’re not trying to work with them. That wasn’t the problem at all,” Nylund said. “But we just sat back and waited for them to come to us and come to us, and it hasn’t happened yet. So a lot of the members didn’t agree with some of the things that were going on. So they just voted no, and will take their chances with layoffs. When it does come down, the city workers are going to get the blunt end of it anyway, so, we’re just kind of cutting our throat more than once.”
So what effect does the vote have on the recently passed budget?
“I guess the budget is not operational now,” President of Portsmouth City Council David Malone said, in reaction to the AFSCME vote. “It was contingent upon the unions’ accepting it. So I guess we’ll have to regroup, and get with the Mayor and see what steps she wants to take, and go from there.”
Murray was asked what steps need to be taken to respond to the union’s latest move. However, she had just learned about the situation when asked the question.
“I just learned of this from your report, and I have not had time to look into it,” Murray said. “My main concern was that all employees be treated equally.”
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or firstname.lastname@example.org