Town of Berne, highway employees clash over length of work week

BERNE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Town highway workers in Berne are battling for a four-day work week, but the town board disagrees.

There are six full-time employees at the Berne Town Garage. They’re calling for a four-day, 10 hour per day work week be added to their union contract. They said it will help them accomplish more, but the town supervisor said it’s just an excuse for a three-day weekend.

Dozens with signs marched toward Berne Town Hall Wednesday. They were protesting on behalf of Highway Supervisor Randy Bashwinger and his crew.

“A four-day compressed week works positive for the town, for taxpayers,” Bashwinger said.

But it’s something longtime Town Supervisor Kevin Crosier is firmly against.

“We expect the highway department to be open five days a week,” he said. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.”

The four-day week was in effect for several months last year, and a current highway employee said it was working.

“Going back to five, eight-hour days, it’s like there’s not enough hours in the day to get the job done,” Kevin Kemmet said.

The dispute came to a head on Friday when Crosier laid off two workers. Bashwinger said the workers were told they could have their jobs back if they agreed to a five-day work week.

“I still don’t have a reason why they were laid off or brought back,” Bashwinger said.

The two workers have since been reinstalled, but Crosier wouldn’t say why they were laid off or comment on current contract negotiations.

“All I can say is we basically have a tentative agreement,” he said.

The dozens of marchers  filtered into an unrelated meeting at town hall. But despite the packed room, Crosier didn’t address the protestors.

“What they want to do is have a three-day weekend, and that’s just not fair to the taxpayer,” he said.

Highway employees maintain the long weekend isn’t the motivation. It’s helping the town.

“It’s very important,” Kemmet said. “We have a very important job.”

If the highway workers get their way, they’d report to the garage at 6 a.m. and be out by 4:30 p.m. with Fridays off. But until negotiations are complete, they’ll continue to work five days a week.

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