Boynton Beach – A group of about 30 city workers carried picket signs and chanted slogans outside City Hall on Tuesday night to protest prolonged contract negotiations. The blue-collar employees, which include about 250 of the city’s water treatment, sanitation and maintenance personnel, have been working under a contract that expired last year.
Negotiations for a new agreement have been at a standstill since spring, and the city recently completed an investigation into possible overtime abuse at the water treatment plant.
“It’s been a pattern of abusing blue-collar workers for a long time,” said Sharon Munley, president of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, Local 1227, which represents the workers.
The workers outside City Hall carried picket signs criticizing City Manager Kurt Bressner and Director of Public Works Jeff Livergood. The city manager was targeted because he ordered a police investigation of the overtime.
The investigation found no criminal wrongdoing but concluded there was a “problem with the interpretation” of the overtime rules.
Bressner said he was alarmed by how quickly the city was spending the money it had budgeted for overtime in the Utilities Department this year.
“We found out that there were some discrepancies [in how overtime rules were interpreted] beginning in the mid- to late 1990s,” Bressner said. “No one is calling anybody a thief. I’m looking at the overall cost, and these numbers jumped out at me.”
Several of the picket signs carried such slogans as “Livergood is no good,” and “Bressner must go.”
Some workers said they blame Livergood, a member of the city’s negotiating team, for bringing the negotiations to a halt. Negotiators for the city wanted wide changes to the contract, while union representatives said they wanted only minor adjustments.
Livergood said the criticism “comes with the job.”
“Things change,” Livergood said. “As we provide services to the community, we need to see how we can provide those services realizing that there are fewer and fewer resources.”