EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Mayor Lantigua

May 29, 2011

Union: Lantigua putting political cronies on city payroll

LAWRENCE — Grievances and unfair labor practice complaints are piling up against Mayor William Lantigua's administration after laid-off union employees were not rehired and temporary workers with political ties to Lantigua were put on the payroll.

The temporary workers landed jobs in the public works department, inspectional services and the tax collector's office, according to numerous City Hall and union sources.

The workers are paid out of self-supporting enterprise funds, posing no additional burden to the municipal budget, or they are filling the positions of workers who took "voluntary layoffs" in July 2010, said Leonard Degnan, Lantigua's former chief of staff.

But a union business manager said he has told the city "to cease and desist" the prohibited hiring of "political cronies."

"Their answer to us is we don't really care," said Edmund "Ike" Gabriel, of SEIU Local 3 Firemen and Oilers, which represents public works and clerical workers. He said the city is taking an enormous financial risk by ignoring the rights and contracts of unionized workers. When a layoff occurs, senior unionized workers are "to be the first to be called back," he said.

"In the end, the city will be obligated to pay lost wages to these people ... That's something the city can ill afford," Gabriel said.

Last July, nearly 80 city employees, including 37 municipal workers in a number of departments, were laid off to balance the city's $72 million budget.

Those recently hired include longtime Lantigua supporters Santiago Matias, who works in the city's Inspectional Services Department, and Nazario Esquea, who works in the Tax Collector's office.

And Cesar Brea and Fernando "Chi Chi" Rivera, who were laid off from the water and sewer divisions last July, both are back working for the city as temporary workers at Veterans' Memorial Stadium, bypassing other unionized workers with more seniority, the sources said.

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