WPCA workers fight for rights

BRIDGEPORT — Employees of the Bridgeport Water Pollution Control Authority held a protest outside City Hall Monday evening because of the city’s decision to begin negotiations with a company, Severn Trent Services, without protecting the worker’s union rights and benefits.

The protest preceded the City Council’s regular meeting.

The new company, which will soon manage the city’s sewage plants, was chosen through a request for proposals in which the city did not ask for the union contracts of the 80 or so employees to be accepted and protected.

State Rep. Jack Hennessy and state Sen. Andres Ayala attended the protest to support the workers.

Ayala said city should have included a union protection clause in the WPCA contractor bid as they had always done in past bids. “It’s about supporting workers,” he said. “We don’t want to get new employees when we have good ones now.”

After the protest, David Jensen, a WPCA employee, told the City Council — in its public speaking session — that they were offered jobs but told their salaries and benefits would only be discussed after they accepted the employment and that no union rights would be respected.

“Our experience and expertise seems to have little or no merit to Severn Trent or the city,” he said.

That’s not true, countered Ted Grabarz, a city employee and head of the WPCA board, in a separate interview with the Post. He noted that the new company had received outside applications for the jobs, but any new employees would likely not have the same expertise.

“I fully recognize that,” he said. “They’re a good group (of union workers). I think a lot of this has been about communication.”

Grabarz said the contract with Severn Trent would be finalized soon and he hoped both sides could then sit at the table, listen to each other and come to an amicable agreement.

Even Sal Luciano, executive director of Council 4, representing the union workers, said after a meeting with the mayor earlier in the day he had left, “Guardedly hopeful.”

Keila Torres Ocasio