As layoff looms, IHA workers try to save health care

SEIU Workers United Shop Steward Caleb Bryant, left, who works in the Irvington Housing Authority Maintenance Department, sits with one of his members, rear, and with former IHA Board of Commissioners member and current public housing resident Delores Calloway, seated right, on Monday, April 4, on the eve of the strike they organized to protest their imminent layoffs by IHA Executive director David Brown. Since then, Bryant and the other 12 IHA maintenance workers were given an 'indefinite postponement' of their scheduled layoffs; however, union members said they still have plenty of questions about health care benefits and layoffs, which loom ever closer.
SEIU Workers United Shop Steward Caleb Bryant, left, who works in the Irvington Housing Authority Maintenance Department, sits with one of his members, rear, and with former IHA Board of Commissioners member and current public housing resident Delores Calloway, seated right, on Monday, April 4, on the eve of the strike they organized to protest their imminent layoffs by IHA Executive director David Brown. Since then, Bryant and the other 12 IHA maintenance workers were given an ‘indefinite postponement’ of their scheduled layoffs; however, union members said they still have plenty of questions about health care benefits and layoffs, which loom ever closer.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Although Caleb Bryant, the Service Employees International Union Local 617 shop steward and 12 other Irvington Housing Authority maintenance workers may have received an “indefinite postponement” of their scheduled layoff on Thursday, May 5, the price may have been their own health.

Health care, that is.

“Presently, our union will present IHA with options for cost savings with our health care,” said Bryant on Wednesday, May 11, a day after a meeting of the IHA Board of Commissioners. “Once again, those who make the least are being asked to sacrifice. What will management concede?”

“The authority presented a case of finances being slashed from HUD, but failed to inform that the IHA is presently in severe debt, with capital leveraging loans and rent collection,” alleged Bryant. “At the last commissioner meeting, the board approved a write-off of $73,000, while proposing layoffs.”

In addition, Bryant said IHA residents have received letters from IHA management stating they had not paid their rent on time and were therefore in arrears, despite the fact that most have the receipts to prove their rent was paid on time.

Laying off 13 maintenance workers would not secure enough money to solve the problems facing the Irvington Housing Authority, said Bryant.

Brown did not respond to requests for comment from the Irvington Herald about Bryant’s allegations by press time this week. However, he did respond to Bryant and the other maintenance workers and Workers United Local 617 Union members’ mismanagement allegations last month, saying on Wednesday, April 6, “HUD recently issued a letter to the Irvington Housing Authority stating its director was being overpaid of federal funding. After careful review by the Housing Authority accounting staff, this information was found to be untrue. … The Housing Authority finds they were within the regulations.”

According to Brown, the management model Brown proposed is in response to HUD cutting the IHA’s operating funding “over the past 10 years” and “funding it at a 90-percent average.” He said the new financial model would produce management fees that “would be used in lieu of complex systems for allocating overhead expenses.”

Brown said everything he does as IHA executive director is for the good of residents.

“The most important thing to the Irvington Housing Authority is providing safe, decent and sanitary housing to all its residents and we continue to put its residents of the township of Irvington first, who are in need of services,” Brown said.

While Bryant said that all sounds good, he is skeptical.

“We are on a razor’s edge; if our health care proposal is not accepted, the layoff will be back,” said Bryant on Tuesday, May 17. “If this was about skill set, there would be no need for cost-saving measures. … Why have the salaries of management increased during financial insolvency? Where is the shared sacrifice?”

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