LYME-OLD LYME — The Lyme-Old Lyme Board of Education denied the grievances presented by union representatives claiming 25 hours of unpaid overtime to custodial and maintenance staff.
The two grievances were brought by the employees representing a group of nine custodial and maintenance workers. The union — led by custodian Phil Fazzino — argued that any time non-certified staff are called in for, or informed about, overtime work after the end of their previously-scheduled shift, they should be paid a minimum of three hours.
The contract between the union and the administration states:
“When a full time non-certified employee is called into work on an unscheduled workday or is called back to work they shall be compensated for a minimum of three hours of overtime. This shall not apply to work scheduled in advance or if they are notified before the end of their shift.”
The response of the Lyme-Old Lyme School administration rested on the word “or.”
“This shall not apply to work scheduled in advance or they are notified before the end of their shift. Not ‘and,’ but ‘or,’” said Superintendent Ian Neviaser. “They are not called back to work, but told to come into work early the next day. They were notified in advance. In terms of contract language we are well within our rights not to pay people if they are notified in advance.”
To the union, “advance” means that employees are informed of the additional hours for the next day prior to the end of shift.
“There is a difference to being notified prior to our previous shift and during our previous shift,” Fazzino said. “If you’re calling us on a Sunday evening at 9pm, I was asleep. It’s cutting into my off time and not allowing for preparation.”
One concern voiced by the board was how employees would be compensated for Monday snowstorms.
“It just troubles me that any Monday snowstorm you would always get this three hours of pay,” said Jean Wilczynski, a member of the board of education. “You’re never going to know on Friday about these storms.”
Over the past five years, there were three incidents, all during the 2018-19 school year, of custodial and maintenance staff being paid three hours of overtime for just one or two hours of work that they were not informed of during their previous shift. The union said this set a precedent, the administration said it was a misinterpretation of the contract during that period of time.
The dispute amounted to 25 hours at time-and-a-half divided among nine employees.
The administration asked to sit down with the union twice during the 2018-19 school year to renegotiate this language. The union, however, did not agree to the proposals offered by the board at the time.
“I admit this language is confusing, I don’t like it, we wanted to change it,” Neviaser said. “But, this is the language we have to live by now. This decision can’t be on what could be or should be, but on this language as it currently exists.”
And that’s what the board agreed with. The language of “in advance” includes the evening in advance, even if it is after the previous shift.
The union now has the opportunity to bring their case to arbitration.