Union employees air contract dispute on MDI

Posted Aug. 26, 2014, at 1:55 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 26, 2014, at 6:48 p.m.

SOUTHWEST HARBOR, Maine — Municipal employees of three Mount Desert Island towns who are members of the Teamsters labor union are airing their grievances as they try to reach a new labor contract with the towns.

According to a prepared statement from Teamsters Local 340, employees are concerned about pressure from town officials to reduce their health insurance benefits. The union chapter represents approximately 40 people who work for the Bar Harbor highway and wastewater departments, the Mount Desert public works and wastewater departments, and the Southwest Harbor police and public works departments.

The union chapter was expected to hold a rally in Southwest Harbor from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on Main Street across from Village Green Way.

Joe Piccone, business agent for the union chapter, said in the prepared statement that even though MDI has become the country’s “No. 1 tourist destination,” public employees who work for the three towns essentially are being told they need to accept a reduced standard of living.

“We are being asked, for no good reason, to participate in a race to the bottom,” Piccone said in the statement. “We want the public to be aware that we are satisfied with the current health coverage and that we have been given no satisfactory reason why it should be reduced.”

According to the union statement, Bar Harbor and Mount Desert have filed for mediation in the dispute, but Piccone has said he would prefer to directly negotiate settlements with the towns. In Southwest Harbor, where the union’s contract expired last Dec. 31, the town has not filed for mediation but the impasse remains.

Durlin Lunt,Mount Desert town manager, declined to comment specifically on the proposed contract, but he said it is his job to try to save local taxpayers’ money.

“That’s exactly what town residents expect us to do — provide the best possible service at the best possible price,” Lunt said Tuesday.

Jim Ashe, interim town manager for Bar Harbor, also declined to comment specifically on the contractual dispute. He did say the matter is expected to go to mediation in mid-September.

“Hopefully, these things can get worked out,” he said.

Don Lagrange, Southwest Harbor’s town manager, could not be reached Tuesday for comment about the contract negotiations.

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