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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 15, 2009

Berne highway workers’ union files grievance over employment practices

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — Union members in the highway department have filed a grievance against the town over failing to follow the town’s employee handbook, while appointing a non-union worker to a position previously held by a union member, one highway worker said this week.

“It’s going to arbitration — that’s the next step, and it’s going to cost both sides a lot of money,” said highway worker John Bushnell. Of Supervisor Kevin Crosier, he said, “What Crosier did is breaking the contract; the union’s goal is to maintain the union position.”

Crosier, however, has said that Jeff Alexander is a part-time seasonal employee and, therefore, exempt from the policy.

“This all started because the transfer station position has always been a union position, which Jeff Alexander now has, and I’m the shop steward there,” Bushnell told The Enterprise this week. “Crosier came to me and asked if we could talk to the guys because he wanted to take the guy off the transfer station and put Jeff up there full-time, one day a week, on Saturdays. We don’t want nothing to do with that — it’s a union position, and we want to keep it a union position. So, I looked at the handbook.”

The town’s employee handbook states that, in the event of a vacancy in a new or existing position that the town intends to maintain, the position will be advertised, and qualified applicants will be interviewed.

When Bushnell asked the town board about its hiring policy at its regular September meeting, Crosier said that Alexander is a part-time seasonal employee, and that there is no hiring policy for these employees.

Bushnell says that not only does Alexander work full-time hours with him, but the town handbook does not differentiate between hiring policies for part-time and full-time employees.

Bushnell said that Ryan Tymchyn, a highway worker and union member, was taken off his Saturday post at the transfer station, assigned to work Fridays instead; Alexander would then work Saturdays.

“It’s a job that nobody really likes doing, but you have to wait until somebody moves along so you can move up the list.” said Bushnell. “Ryan is pretty new there; he’s had the job since he started about two years ago,” he said.

Crosier said this week that Alexander was originally hired to work in the town’s parks.

“In a small community, it’s hard to find people to do some of this work,” Crosier said of why Alexander was hired. “The nice thing about Jeff Alexander was, we always wanted someone who was both retired and lived close to the town park. We wanted someone who could take care of the town park during the summer when people were using it. Mr. Alexander fit that bill to a T. And, to be honest, he’s one of the best employees that we’ve had in my eight years. I get compliments constantly about how nice the parks look.”

On advertising for job openings, Crosier said, “Sometimes the town advertises jobs in the paper, that’s one of the methods that we use, and we try to use that on a regular basis. But we also sometimes have criteria that we like to meet. And those criteria were to have someone close to the park, and who was retired.”

Alexander said that he was unaware that his employment was even an issue.

“All I know is I was asked if I wanted the job and I took it,” Alexander said. “I think a neighbor and good friend of mine was approached by Kevin [Crosier] and he recommended me. I’m hired to do parks in the summer. During the summer, they hire people to mow the cemeteries and the parks and, essentially, it’s up to 40 hours in the summer time. It really is a part-time position, but, in the summer time, it can very well be 40 hours.”

Bushnell has said repeatedly that he has nothing personal against Alexander, that they have known each other many years, and that their daughters are close friends.

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