Union to fight dismissal of Harbour Grace employee

Terry Roberts
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Says firing of longtime arena worker was unjustified; mayor stands by decision

The union representing a longtime employee with the Town of Harbour Grace is prepared to fight council's decision to fire the worker, and says an arbitration battle could be very costly for the Conception Bay North municipality.

An exterior view of S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.

The ongoing labour dispute is the latest development in a series of high profile controversies that have beset the town in recent months, highlighted by the abrupt resignation of two newly hired senior management employees.

Rick Gill is a business agent with Teamsters Local 855, which represents municipal employees with the Town of Harbour Grace.

Gill confirmed today (March 11) that attempts to reach a resolution during face-to-face talks with the town's human resources committee went nowhere, and the matter is now in the hands of lawyers representing both sides. If a satisfactory agreement is still unreachable, said Gill, the union executive has voted to bring the matter to a third party arbitrator.

This third step could cost both sides up to $30,000 each, said Gill.

"This is a very expensive process for both sides, and I'll be surprised if they (go that far)," said the union official.

Gill would not discuss specifics, but said the union would not have taken these steps if it felt the dismissal of Garfield (Garf) Mahaney was justified.

"We have determined there is not a just cause for termination," said Gill. "We rely on progressive discipline, and it wasn't followed in this case."

Harbour Grace Mayor Terry Barnes, however, stands by the town's decision to fire Mahaney, saying "it was not just one thing," and "this was over six or seven weeks."

Mahaney was fired following a controversial incident at the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace over the Christmas period. Mahaney, who has worked at the arena for many years, was on medical leave, yet agreed to open the doors to the facility for an unsanctioned event on Boxing Day.

When contacted today, Mahaney admitted he was wrong to open the arena, but disagrees that he should have been fired.

He said he wants his job back, and "a full apology from the lot of them."

When asked about his conduct as an employee, Mahaney, 56, said: "You won't get no better than me."

He initially denied being reprimanded in the past, but admitted to verbally threatening another employee about two years ago.

What's more, Mahaney said he opened the arena for the Boxing Day event for the past 25 years, and there was never an issue.

But when reminded that he was on medical leave at the time, Mahaney commented: "I know. I never should have went down there."

Sources say the day-long event involved some three dozen people playing shinny hockey. Those involved included some high profile hockey personalities from the area, along with several people who are closely related to members of the Harbour Grace town council.

The event is a Christmas tradition dating back many years, but this year's event went ahead during a period of transition in the town. A new chief administrative officer and facilities manager had recently been hired, and were getting acquainted with their new positions.

The event ignited a storm of controversy, and sources say it was a factor in the eventual resignation of both management employees. The two former employees are sisters-in-law, and neither have commented publicly since their departures. However, their letters of resignation were read into the public record during a recent public council meeting, with one of the employees referring to "threats" and saying she was put into situations where her “morals, ethics, and professional and educational knowledge were challenged …"

The town has since launched a new recruitment effort to fill the positions.

The departure of the two senior employees also touched off a dispute between Mayor Barnes and several of his colleagues. The matter climaxed during a privileged meeting, when calls were made for Barnes' resignation, with accusations that he did not follow protocol in efforts to implement a temporary solution to the staffing crisis.

Barnes refused to resign, and relations between members of council, who were elected to a four-year term in September, are said to have normalized in recent weeks.

"We lost two superb ladies, but we've got to move on," said Barnes. "I wish we had a better understanding (of things) and could have helped them better than what we did."

The town attempted to rehire the two women, but they rejected all overtures, said Barnes.

The mayor also confirmed this week that council invited a representative of Municipal Affairs to observe the proceedings of council meetings.

"We're all new. We want to make sure we doing meetings right," Barnes explained.

An observer sat in on a recent council meeting, may sit in on a second, Barnes added.

Meanwhile, when asked if the town was prepared to spend thousands of dollars to uphold the decision to fire Mahaney, Barnes was non-committal.

"I don't know where it's to right now," he said.

The union official, however, was pulling no punches.

“They can’t afford to spend this kind of money when they cannot even do their roads,” said Rick Gill. “It’s just a huge waste and we should be able to negotiate a satisfactory settlement.”

Gill even pitched a possible solution: give Mahaney back his job without paying any lost wages.

"This is a huge smack on the hands, but I think he would be satisfied with something along that line. I would strongly convince him to do that if it was offered,” said Gill.

Terry.Roberts@tc.tc

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  • Rotted!
    March 12, 2014 - 14:04

    Really Steve??? Maybe you should try working there! Bully? Hahaha what a joke! Garfield Mahoney took crap from everyone working there for a long time! Doing work that the other lazy employees failed to do day after day! Having to work during partys that took place in the dressing rooms following hockey games! Alcohol going everywhere! Little do you all know Garfield Mahoney is a recovered alcoholic who, with documents to state, has been advised my family physician to NOT do! This man was not permitted to work around alochol! However, new and previous management didn't care for that! Oh no, if for some pathetic reason other employees couldn't work their shift Garfield Mahaney was made work it for them! Totally going against his doctors recommendation for him! Then threats!!! Oh yea, threats were made towards his safety on operation of the Zamboni! Maybe that's why it failed during one of the big games this season! Maybe it did get tempered with after, probably to get young Mahaney out of there, like they threatened to do with Garfield! Who's doing the bullying now by? Garfield Mahaney was nothing but a friendly, dedicated worker! People from all over the peninsula knew him, respected him, and loved him! I know of three different occasions where hockey parents complained to Garfield about the ignorance of other workers at the SW MOORES STADIUM! Complaints of laziness, children getting hurt on the ice and workers not around to help the child! A number of occasions I myself walking in to get my child and the smell of marijuna steaming from the tunnels in under the bleachers! My advice to you all label the ones that need labelling! Invest in some security for the building and train those who want the jobs there! Garfield Mahaney is too good for that place! He needs to move on and the rest of the dirt, working there needs to find new jobs! Ones thy don't include any work or dignity! Bunch of losers!

  • Wanda
    March 11, 2014 - 20:24

    ONE WORD! SUE!!!

  • Wanda
    March 11, 2014 - 20:18

    Sue! The hell with the job, you'd be sittin back on easy street Garf Mahaney! lol Give them what they deserve....

  • steve
    March 11, 2014 - 15:46

    So the union feels its fine to break the rules be off on medical leave but still be able to go to the rink on Boxing Day? He deserves to be fired and the town should stick to its guns.He should have been fired when he bullied others with threats 2 yrs ago.Sometimes unions protect those who should not be protected.

    • Maggie
      March 12, 2014 - 10:16

      I like to know what you are talking about that Garf Bullied other with threats .excuse me you better have solid proof of this ..you don't know Garf very well then he work there for years and never had any problems it was only when the Got the new manger ..all this started anyways I would like to know who he bullied and made threats to you don't now what your talking about .I like for you to go there as an employee and take the bull shit that he had to take and it wasn't from the public either ..Garf Mahaney is very mannerly man when it comes to the public not like some other people I know who work there by the way I would like to know who this Steve is you don't know what you are talking about you better get you facts straight before saying things that you don't know anything about or anything else I will have your ass / asses in court...