The decades old battle between Hartford’s regional sewage agency and the statewide trash authority continued Tuesday outside the trash-to-energy facility in Hartford‘s south meadows.
Metropolitan District Commission employees who have been operating the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority trash-to-energy facility since its inception groused about CRRA’s decision to contract with North American Energy Services, a Japanese company. NAES filed a notice with the Department of Labor earlier this month saying it could start laying off workers at the plant as early as Aug. 1.
“Without the MDC employees and their expertise it would have failed,” Gil Bironi, president of AFSCME Council 4 local 184, said of the trash-to-energy facility. Standing with more than two dozen of his fellow workers, Bironi said he doesn’t understand why NAES and CRRA would want to lay off good, hardworking people in the name of cost savings and profits.
“They say it’s for cost savings. But that’s not the reason. Privatization is greed. Privatization is corruption. And CRRA is all about greed and corruption,” said Bironi.
The plant and the Mid-Connecticut Project will continue to be owned by CRRA, a quasi-public agency.
Paul Nonnenmacher, spokesman for CRRA, said the employees may be offered a job by the new contractor at the same salary they currently receive, but MDC employees say that offer comes without their same health and pension benefits and requires them to leave their union.
Bironi said neither CRRA or NAES have come to offer the workers a job even though the rumors of keeping employees on persists. He urged the two to wait for the judge to rule in the lawsuit brought by the MDC back in 2010.
The MDC sued CRRA back in 2010 after it lost the contract to NAES. The trial has already taken place and post-trial briefs are being filed. A decision could come within 60 to 90 days of the final July 15 filing date.
“Anytime a public facility is turned private it’s to the demise of the facility,” Robert Facey, president of Local 3713, said.
He said a big part of why the plant is safe and is being operated beyond its useful life is because of the dedication of the 71 union employees.
Nonnenmacher suggested the employees go to Main Street to protest their employer instead of CRRA, which operates the plant.
“The MDC had a chance to bid on this contract. They did and they lost,” Nonnenmacher said. “The current tipping fee is $69 per ton, but the new municipal service agreements say CRRA can’t exceed $61 per ton. MDC’s proposal would have cost about $73 per ton.”
MDC employees like Facey argued NAES has no experience with trash-to-energy facilities, which are much different than mass burn facilities.
Click here to read a copy of the contract between CRRA and NAES
Nonnenmacher said the trash authority is trying to keep the workers on the job, but MDC workers saying it’s just trying to bust up the union and put them on the unemployment rolls.
“They know how to run the plant and we’d like to keep them,” Nonnenmacher said.
But MDC workers believe they will be kept on just long enough to teach the new contractor how to operate the plant.
“We show them how to run it efficiently, then they lay us off,” Facey said. “That’s what will happen.”
Many of the older MDC workers at the facility have bumping rights within their union and could bump employees at other locations within the sewer agency if push comes to shove.
But union members are holding out hope for a favorable court resolution. The MDC’s attempt to get the legislature to act to change the structure of CRRA failed to come to fruition, again this year.