Union rep declares 'war' on BCWA


The union that represents many BCWA employees has declared “war” against management after they sought to do away with a “benefit” union members have enjoyed for years.

The “war‚” a term used by both water authority executive director Pamela Marchand and Bobby Mahoney, a senior national representative for the Utility Workers Union of America‚ broke out last month after Ms. Marchand and the board of directors moved ahead with a plan to install a time clock at BCWA offices, and changed the practice by which employees clock in after regular hours.

In the past, employees who were called in to work at a job site started collecting their pay from the time of the call, not when they arrived at the job.

But after discussions with the BCWA’s insurance company, Ms. Marchand and other executives decided to change that practice, requiring workers to clock in and out at the BCWA’s office when called in. “Paid work hours will be based on time clock hours, and will no longer be paid from the time of the call,” according to a notice that went out to all employees when the policy change was made.

Other changes were undertaken too, and dealt with safety equipment.

While the changes were made to address “serious liability issues” and will save the authority money, the new policy was not greeted favorably by Bobby Mahoney, a national leader within the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA); its Local 359 represents BCWA employees.

At a meeting on Wednesday, July 16, Mr. Mahoney declared the union “at war” with management over the new policy. And in a follow-up letter to Ms. Marchand a day later, he warned of serious repercussions:

“To try and take away a benefit my members have had for 30 years is not smart or reasonable,” he wrote. “Right now you have a lot of dedicated workers who very anger (sic). If you continue down this road you will just have angry workers until you are gone. You are entering into a fight you have NO chance of winning.”

Ms. Marchand sent a follow-up letter to all BCWA employees, calling Mr. Mahoney’s words “disappointing.”

In explaining the policy, she wrote that “we intend to continue to have the good working relationships (with employees) we have had in the past.”

Unfortunately, she added, “it appears that the union business agent has other ideas, and intends to attack me personally and management in general. I don’t see these tactics as being successful in this organization or in the 3 town environment.”

Mr. Mahoney did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment, but it appears that in the week since those e-mails went out, at least some local union members have backed away from the tough stance.

In a later letter, Ms. Marchand said “I have been told that the union officers did not know any of this ... and are very disturbed. The union personnel, in general, have not expressed any support for these tactics.”

Local union rep Brian Mellor could not be reached for comment. But in a memo delivered to the Barrington Town Council Monday night, BCWA board of directors chairman Alan Klepper said he is optimistic that some kind of common ground can be reached:

“The BCWA union has met several times this past week but has yet to come the management with any comment or action regarding his declaration of ‘war.’

“We remain optimistic that a satisfactory solution will be found.”


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.