Communication workers protest working without contract

DOVER — The target audience — state senators and representatives — was missing on Wednesday.
About 20 Communication Workers of America union members nevertheless rallied in front of Legislative Hall to publicize stalled contract negotiations with the state.

Instead of reaching out to elected officials as hoped, the sign-holding Local 13101 attendees waved to vehicles and pedestrians passing by from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in beautifully sunny and mild conditions.

“We didn’t learn until about 10 p.m. last night that the General Assembly was not in session, which was kind of surprising since elections are less than a week away,” said Pete Trotta, CWA division vice president for Delaware State Police 911 Communications.

Mr. Trotta is among 80 911 call operators who believe that the Delaware Office of Management and Budget hasn’t negotiated in good faith since their contract expired on June 30.

Another 120 civilian staffers for the State Police feel the same way after eight meetings with OMB.

CWA worker Nevin Steffy keeps a grip of his dog, Mia, during a  union protest at Leg Hall in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CWA worker Nevin Steffy keeps a grip of his dog, Mia, during a union protest at Leg Hall in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We have given the state proposals that they won’t even look at or send counterproposals for,” CWA 13101 Executive Vice President Beth Marvel said.

“What we have on the table is nothing extreme. The proposals are quite moderate, actually, but the state will not consider them in any way.”

“The state has had several collective bargaining sessions with the union over the past year to arrive at a contract agreement,” said Bert Scoglietti, OMB director of Policy/External Affairs, in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

“We will continue to work through the collective bargaining process and remain optimistic of finalizing a contract.”

In eight meetings with the OMB, according to Mr. Trotta, “they simply refuse to negotiate. They don’t want to discuss the issues, they only want to discuss wages.

“We have issues,” he said

The CWA hopes, among other aims, to gain extra pay for assistant supervisors, leadership duties increase, along with a pay scale that rewards longevity, according to Mr. Trotta. When large scale emergencies arise and dispatchers work much longer shifts that can reach 72 hours straight, the CWA compensation should reflect the actual time spent, he said.

Also sought is a health and safety committee that can acknowledge and address employee workplace concerns.

Heather Maslauskas, left, was among those Wednesday protesting the no-contract situation between the CWA and the state of Delaware. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Heather Maslauskas, left, was among those Wednesday protesting the no-contract situation between the CWA and the state of Delaware. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A full-fledged strike is not possible for call operators, who are deemed essential employees. Mr. Trotta said attempted mediation failed and binding arbitration through the Public Employment Relations Board is next.

At least one member of CWA negotiating team has an idea of what’s ahead.

“This is going to arbitration,” Jerry Conway said.

“The public is for us and understands what we’re going through and a lot of representatives feel our pain,” Mr. Trotta said. “Our biggest obstacle is the OMB itself. We’ve never experienced this lack of consideration before.”

The CWA earlier held a rally outside the OMB office in Wilmington.

“They’re very effective,” CWA organizer Scott Perlot said of the gatherings. “We have to be in the public eye to let people know what’s going on for workers in the state of Delaware.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.