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AUGUST 12 - AUGUST 20, 2014

Battle Intensifying Between Union and Brochey Over Three Percent Pay Hike

August 12, 2014

"You can't spend what you don't have," says Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey

There is a battle shaping up in the Town of Lewiston concerning the possible overpayment of some $20,000 to a group of town employees.

The overpayment stems from the fact that a three percent cost of living wage increase has been being paid to them for some time, an increase the town maintains was not authorized.

Depending on which side you ask, workers in the sewer/water pollution control department have either been working under a tentative agreement reached last year, or are still working under an old contract that expired last year.

No matter which is true it seems that somehow a three percent wage increase has been paid to those unionized workers and has just been halted.

The CSEA Union representing the town employees contends they reached an agreement with former Supervisor Steven Reiter, but current Supervisor Dennis Brochey contends it was never ratified by the entire town board and is therefore invalid.

Brochey was recently quoted as saying that he was "startled" to learn of the error and stopped paying the three percent increase. Initially, attributing the overpayment to a mistake made by office staff, he instructed town attorney Mark Davis to send a letter to each employee demanding they voluntarily return those monies or face possible legal action.

The workers however, pointing to a recent interview Brochey gave the Buffalo News in which he said he had been aware of the raise and was "keeping it going" in an attempt to get a new contract agreement signed with the workers.

The workers are saying the Town Board must have been aware of their raise and for the supervisor to have continued to make those payments since January suggests there was no "accidental" overpayment and the raise was proper.

Brochey told the Niagara Falls Reporter he was aware of the overpayment for some time before he ordered the payments stopped, saying he hoped to settle a contract with the union and allowed the raise to continue hoping it would be resolved.

Brochey has repeatedly warned about a new town tax if spending is not brought into line.

"You can't spend what you don't have," he said.

The three percent wage increase amounts to between 60 cents and $1 dollar per hour and would cost the town about $50,000 per year, not counting increases in benefits and future pension costs.

Wages range from $21 to $30 per hour for union workers.

Both sides are privately saying that the contract talks seem to be at an impasse, and the town is considering bringing an outside negotiator in to help them reach an agreement with the union.

As for the return of any back wages, unless it becomes a part of a settlement agreement that issue may have to be settled in a courtroom rather than a conference room.







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