UPDATE, May 3: Local 1651 President Walter Hartley says the situation presented by Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon leaves out the Mayor’s ultimatum approach and their efforts to aid the City.
“The administration presented a take it or leave it offer to the members and pushed for an immediate answer. Local 1651 asked for financial information; whether other bargaining units were asked for concessions; and presented some alternatives. As part of the dialogue the union and management agreed to leave 13 positions unfilled. Unfortunately, the administration refused to provide additional information or engage in good faith bargaining. Nine days after the Administration made their demand our members voted to reject the administration’s request.”
Hartley said that while the union has made concessions to aid the City in the past, the administration’s failure to communicate requested information made the members suspicious. He urged Solomon to return to negotiating to avoid adding 50 people to the state’s unemployment rolls.
“Politics and bullying have no place during a pandemic,” Hartley said.
ORIGINAL STORY, APRIL 29: WARWICK — With City revenues projected to fall 33 percent during the COVID-19 outbreak, and AFSCME Local 1651’s refusal to forgo a a 2.75 percent raise, Mayor Joseph J. Solomon announced the 50 Warwick layoffs in FY 21 Wednesday morning.
Solomon released a statement announcing that he proposed the union go without the scheduled raises to avoid the need for layoffs. The raises were negotiated in the union’s latest contract with the city.
Union representatives were not immediately available to comment on the negotiation.
“In this economy, we simply cannot ask our taxpayers – many of whom have unexpectedly lost jobs within the last few weeks or are otherwise struggling – to foot the bill for these raises. It is just not feasible or fair to our taxpayers. This is a situation none of us could have anticipated even a few months ago,” said Solomon.
“However, the Union rejected our proposal: when presented with the options on the table, the Union opted as a body to choose raises for some and pink slips for others,” the Mayor continued. “That is within the Union’s purview to choose. It is not a decision I would have made, as I do not want to add any of our employees to Rhode Island’s already skyrocketing unemployment list.”
Warwick’s tourism and hospitality industries comprise a large portion of its tax base, and many hotels and restaurants are shuttered due to the crisis, Solomon said.
As of April 17, the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau estimated that the impact of the loss of meetings, conventions, and sporting events booked by the PWCVB is currently $18.2 million in direct spending for cancelled events and an additional $16.3 million in postponed business. According to data from the PWCVB, Warwick’s hotel occupancy and revenue rates plummeted by more than 45 percent for the month of March, and that was just the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. Warwick receives approximately $9 million in revenue from the airport, hotel taxes, and meal and beverage taxes. Projections show that these revenues could decline as much as 33 percent in the coming year.
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