Union asks school to control bottle waste

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
Jan. 18, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The school custodial union wants the high school to control the amount of plastic water bottles students take out of the cafeteria after a custodian slipped on a bottle left on a flight of stairs, a union representative told the Board of Education Thursday.

Nick Mancini, a custodian at North Branford High School, stepped on a plastic water bottle in mid-November. He caught himself before he fell and was not injured, but he decided to file a grievance over the “unsafe working conditions,” according to the grievance and a letter attached to it.

The union is asking the high school administration to enforce rules against food and water in the halls, said Leonard LaLuna, a staff representative for Connecticut Council 4, the parent union for the local custodians’ union.

“They’re left all over the stairs, walkways, and they pose a safety issue,” LaLuna said. “We’re not asking for a ban, we’re asking for (teachers and administrators to) control it.”

LaLuna said that there is a rule in the student handbook banning plastic water bottles, but Superintendent of Schools Robert Wolfe said the administration allows students to bring bottles to school.

According the grievance, when Mancini brought up the issue with his supervisor, he was told to be careful and hold handrails when walking on the stairs, use clear and well-lit paths and wear appropriate footwear.

The union found the response unacceptable, so Mancini filed further steps of the grievance process with Business Manager Don Winnicki and Wolfe, both of whom denied the grievance. He then requested a hearing with the school board.

Winnicki said at Thursday’s meeting that he does not think the issue poses a “real threat” and therefore does not violate the health and safety parts of the custodians’ contract.

“From a legalistic standpoint, I don’t think this meets the standard of a violation (of the contract),” he said.

LaLuna said the union is not planning to take the grievance to arbitration. The Board of Education has 14 days to decide on the grievance.

“I don’t think that the union is being unreasonable in just asking that we monitor what is going on in the hallways as best we can during the day, but we’ll continue to discuss this,” board Chairwoman Deborah Prunier said.

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