Cityline reached out to some union folks Thursday to gauge their reaction to reports of how some city officials were spending money on their purchasing cards (city-issued credit cards used for travel, office supplies, dining, etc.). Mayor Pedro Segarra has said he will seek $3 million in employee concessions next year. He said he will begin meeting with unions early on in the new fiscal year.
Clarke King, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 4, Local 1716 — one of the largest city employee unions — said Thursday he was disappointed when reading about the spending, given that he has rallied, along with other union leaders, at the Capitol against municipal aid cuts.
“I’m sitting there with the municipalities begging the governor not to cut aid to municipalities, and in the meantime we’re spending money on p-cards all over the place,” he said. “It sends a bad message, I think, to the governor and the state and to city residents. If you tighten your belt, everyone has to share in the pain. It can’t just be one side.”
Local 1716 last year negotiated a new contract with the city that runs through 2015 and includes both raises and furlough days. Under the agreement, members must take two furlough days by June 30, 2013. They were set to receive a 1.5 percent pay increase in 2012; a 2.5 percent increase in 2013; a 3 percent raise in 2014; and a 2 percent raise between January and June 2015, according to the contract.
King said that in order to get members to agree to the furlough days, he had to stress the importance of maintaining jobs. He said it will probably be harder to do this year given the reports about city spending.
“Last time we had to really sell it to the members that this was in their best interest to save jobs,” he said. “To see something like this, how are we going to go back and do the same thing again? It’s going to be very difficult.”
Sgt. Richard Holton, president of the Hartford Police Union, said the union has done a lot to help the city save money on pensions and health care costs.
“It’s not our job to balance the budget; it’s the mayor’s job,” he said. Of the purchasing card spending, he added: “I don’t think it makes Hartford look very good. They’ve got the p-cards, they’ve got bonuses. It doesn’t look good.”
Segarra and the city council have agreed to eliminate the practice of handing out bonuses, except those already built into union contracts.
The mayor said last week that his 2013-14 proposed budget includes the streamlining of departmental travel costs and technology purchases. He said he also has frozen most employee purchasing cards through June 30 to help end the year with a balanced budget.