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Union Concessions May Save 11 Village Workers' Jobs

Members of OPEIU Local 32 will vote on a plan that would increase health insurance payments and days off without pay.

The jobs of 11 Village employees may be saved if union members agree to pay more for health insurance and accept more furlough days.

As first reported by The Local, members of OPEIU Local 32 will vote April 21 on a contract that would oblige union members to pay more for their health insurance and accept 12 furlough days to save the jobs of 11 union members from the Department of Public Works, Code Enforcement, Recreation and the Municipal Court.

Under the plan, which would take effect this July and expire on Dec. 31, 2010, union members would be required to spend up to 2 percent of their salary on health coverage and take six furlough days in both 2009 and 2010. They would also be eligible for voluntary furloughs and unpaid leaves of absence—subject to approval from their department heads—and incentives if they were to opt into a spouse's health plan.

The plan needs to be ratified first by the union membership at their April 21 meeting and then by the Board of Trustees to take effect.

According to Local 32 secretary-treasurer and business manager Allen Byron, South Orange OPEIU members at a recent gathering that included at least two-thirds of the membership seemed amenable to accepting some concessions in order to save jobs.

"We did what we could to come up with something we thought was fair so that the impact would be felt by all members a little rather than some members who are subject to being laid off," said Byron, who emphasized that the concessions are only being considered as a response to the troubled economy and would expire at the end of 2010.

The other three jobs on the line in the Village's layoff plan belong to Judy Wukitsch—the assistant director of recreation and cultural affairs whose potential job cut has generated a considerable backlash from local arts supporters—and two library workers whose layoffs have been recommended to the Library Board.

The OPEIU members and Wukitsch received their 45 days' notice earlier this month, informing them that their jobs are on course to be eliminated on May 16.

Furloughs are becoming a common proposal among cash-strapped municipalities looking to take some strain off their budgets, and Newark Mayor Cory Booker has proposed shutting down City Hall one day a month. Wednesday, Gov. Corzine announced that the state is moving forward with a plan to furlough employees for a day in both May and June.

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