MASSENA — Massena Public Library Director Elaine Dunne says part-time employees deserve salary increases like other library employees, but town officials say it’s not possible.
“I just can’t understand the mean-spiritedness of it, that you would actually allow some employees an increase and give me an increase, but these other three people who have worked very hard during this COVID crisis get nothing at all, even though the cost of living is soaring,” Ms. Dunne told the Massena Town Council this week. “Can you imagine the feelings of these girls, and they’ve been with us a long time. They’re not fly-by-night to come in one month or two. They’ve been here for years.”
She said she wanted to give 2% salary increases to part-time employees by transferring funds from another account but was told it couldn’t be done.
She said while she and union employees received increases, nothing was budgeted for the part-time employees.
“So, what we decided to do was give them a 2% increase, which is what I have received, and we pulled it from our resources,” Ms. Dunne said. “It amounted to $1,200 and some change. We wanted that moved over so that the part-time employees could also get salary increases, and today I was told we couldn’t do that.”
She said the library wasn’t asking for more money from the town, but rather to transfer funds from another account to cover the increases.
“So I’m not sure why I can’t transfer at this point,” she said. “It’s not that they’re earning an exorbitant amount of money here. With the cost of living, I think it’s only fair to do that and the fact that some employees are getting an increase, but some are not. I find that very mean-spirited and completely unfair.”
“You and I have had this conversation before,” Town Supervisor Steven D. O’Shaughnessy said. “I think part-time was somebody that really isn’t entitled to the benefits that full-timers get, besides the fact that the full-timers are union. Part-time was part-time. It’s not something that they have to get raises or any other benefits, to me anyway.”
“I’m just not understanding it. If it’s an issue of not being able to transfer monies from GL (account), you know what, take my increase, my 2% and split it amongst those girls because there’s no way it’s going to work in our department,” Ms. Dunne said.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy replied: “Your salary is set, it’s posted, it’s advertised. There can’t be any change to it. I pointed you to the Canton audit where the town supervisor raised certain people or shuffled certain people around and the comptroller came in and whacked their hands.”
“It cannot be done,” he added. “But, we have no interest. We set the salaries based on what we felt that it should be. That’s set in stone as far as we’re concerned.”
He suggested the issue could be addressed when the new council members are sworn in next month. Mr. O’Shaughnessy, Deputy Town Supervisor Samuel D. Carbone Jr. and Councilor Albert N. Nicola will leave the board at the end of the year after not seeking reelection.
“I think when the new board comes on and they get a person to help the committee, they can go over and talk with the part-timers and lay out how the town board wants them to be paid, whether they get any increase in the money or any other thing like sick leave or vacation time. So, that all has to be worked out,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said.
Mr. Carbone said he believed everything is spelled out in the employee handbook regarding union contracts and management salaries that are decided by the Town Council.
“So that leaves the employees that aren’t covered by either, that would be covered under the employee handbook,” he said. “I think that the liaisons would work that out and propose something to the board and for those wages.”
Joseph Savoca, president of the Massena Public Library Board of Trustees, said his board had the power to set the salary for library staff, but Mr. O’Shaughnessy disagreed.
“There’s been a long history of the evolution of what’s the relationship between a municipality and a municipal library. If anybody is interested, I can give you all of the laws and references if you’re willing to at least look at them and read them and see what the powers of library trustees are,” Mr. Savoca said. “We have the power to set salaries, we have the power to transfer money from one line of the budget to another line, we have the power to hire the director and to approve the hiring of staff.”
“You and I have discussed this for the last six years and if we disagree, we disagree,” Mr. O’Shaughnessy said. “Our town attorney does not agree with what you perceive. That’s what he says, and he’s up on municipal law and I trust him on anything that he speaks to.”
Town Secretary and Bookkeeper Brenda Mossow noted that some departments had lost part-time employees.
“So I tell these people who are not getting any kind of increase, ‘You’re lucky you have a job.’ Is that basically what you’re telling me to say to them?” Ms. Dunne asked.
“We’re all lucky we have a job right now,” Ms. Mossow said.
“Yes, we are, but we all work hard. At least my part-timers do and they deserve compensation for that,” Ms. Dunne said. “The full-timers got a nice deal with the union contract. I understand that they’re doing better than anyone and the town was OK to sign that contract. So, I’m not understanding why that was OK. The money was there for that, but the money is not OK for part-timers.”
“We’re not asking for any more money from the town,” she added. “We recognize that the town is having problems with money, but the library has always been very good about fundraising.”
Mr. O’Shaughnessy said other part-time employees such as those who are hired as summer help receive no wage increases.
“Their salary is never increased. They’re paid minimum wage. That’s the way it is,” he said.
“And they’re seasonal help,” Ms. Dunne said.
Mr. O’Shaughnessy reiterated that new Town Council members could address the issue.
“If the new board wants to work something out with them, with the board, then that’s up to them,” he said. “But, as it stands now, we’ve made our decision. We passed our budget. That is that.”