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Lockport blue-collar union says layoffs cost more than city admitted

LOCKPORT – The City of Lockport blue-collar union charged Tuesday that the city wasn’t coming clean on the cost of a settlement that brought four Streets Department workers back from layoffs.

But at least the deal could lead to negotiations on a new contract to replace one ratified in November 2009 by the city and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It ran out at the end of 2012, but under state law, it remains in effect until replaced.

Local president Dennis McNamara said the deal that called four members back to work this week also included a commitment to “immediately schedule” bargaining dates for a new union contract.

Edward A. McDonald, AFSCME area representative, said he expects the dates will be chosen by the end of June.

The city is paying for the callbacks out of an $800,000 state grant for repaving streets, which is expected to be one of the main duties for the four, who include Michael E. Tucker, son of the former mayor, as well as Derrick Starks, Randy Szymanski and Joshua Stadlmeir.

Bryan J. Goldberger, the city’s labor attorney, said Monday that each of the four workers recalled will receive a $9,600 cash payment for back pay.

But McNamara said Goldberger didn’t mention the other costs of the layoff: $420 per week in unemployment benefits for each man; longevity payments of $700 for one of the workers and $550 for the others; and the cost of health insurance, which continues for up to two years after a layoff.

The premium for the most commonly chosen city insurance plan is more than $19,000 a year for family coverage and more than $6,700 for single coverage. The four men are being paid $19.39 per hour in salary, McNamara said.

McNamara said the layoffs violated a paragraph of the AFSCME contract which the city interprets as barring layoffs connected to the privatization of garbage collection. The union believes the paragraph bars all layoffs.

Goldberger said that can’t be true, because the same contract has a full page explaining how to handle layoffs.