The Hoboken Municipal Supervisors Association wrote a letter to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission last week asking them to review the city’s proposed 26 layoffs, with the union head saying today that they’re being “treated like a piece of garbage.”
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“It is our firm belief that the layoff list presented by Mayor Bhalla was contrived, orchestrated and planned to target individual employees,” HMSA President Dawn De Lorenzo said in a statement this afternoon.
“A number of our members are being forced into an early retirement at a time when their institutional knowledge of city operations is so desperately needed to keep Hoboken running efficiently. None of these people deserve to feel like they are being punished and treated like a piece of garbage and that is exactly what this administration is doing, tossing them to the curb.”
Her comments come six days after the HMSA submitted a 59-page letter to the state CSC.
The letter contends that pre-layoff statutes and regulations were violated by including three veterans on the layoff list announced on April 16th, did not offer alternative employment for those set to be layoffs, and refused to switch to the NJ Direct 10 health insurance plan that would save over five million dollars.
Furthermore, the union, through their attorney Catherine M. Elston, says switching the city’s prescription plan to CIGA would save an additional four million dollars.
“The almost nine million dollars in savings achieved by NJ Direct 10 and CIGNA far outweigh the savings the city hopes to achieve through layoff of approximately 30 positions. The salary for those positions total approximately $2.2 million,” Elston wrote.
She also calls the relatively new Offices of Constituent Affairs and Engineering Department expendable, created solely to provide employment for allies of the mayor.
Hoboken Corporation Counsel Brian Aloia was succinct when addressing the latest union action, stating “the city will vigorously defend its position and is confident it will prevail in the court of law.”
He and other city officials declined to comment further.
“While my administration has been working tirelessly to address previous budgetary challenges and has made progress to this effect, the pandemic and our fiscal standing makes it extremely difficult to withstand such a major impact without layoffs in City Hall,” Mayor Ravi Bhalla said on April 17th.
“Comparing the revenues of mid-March to mid-April to a year ago, the City is down over $1 million in typical revenue received. This does not include all of the added COVID-19 expenses such as COVID-19 testing, disinfecting of senior and Hoboken Housing Authority buildings, meals for seniors in need, and additional public safety costs,” he said in a subsequent statement on April 21st.
Back on March 2nd, the city issued layoff notices to 79 municipal employees, several of whom lashed out at the next council meeting where the governing body recommended the city to switch healthcare plans.
A few days later, Bhalla said in an interview with HCV that while the city was unlikely to use the statewide insurance plan, NJ Direct 10, the cost savings could be effectuated and enacted sooner by maintaining the services of the city’s current broker – Fairview Insurance.
Then on April 15th, the council passed another measure urging the admin not to execute any layoffs until after the public health emergency subsides.
As he has previously, 1st Ward Councilman Mike DeFusco questioned the logic of executing layoffs prior to introducing the municipal budget.
“The administration continues to delay presenting the City Council with a budget and I’ve repeatedly asked that they postpone layoffs so we can properly analyze where to make cuts in all areas of spending,” he exclaimed.
“The rush to eliminate jobs, that will only account for a very small fraction of our multi-million dollar budget deficit, seems to be a micro approach to a significantly larger problem.”
4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos added that “I just want to ensure that every employee receives the due process that their labor contracts call for.”
The Hoboken Municipal Employees Association has also been highly critical of the administration’s layoff plan.
A civil service spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking comment.