Senior center workers in state of uncertainty

Senior center workers in state of uncertainty

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Former employees at the Salvatore Mancini Resource and Activity Center have been stuck in limbo, waiting for months to see if they’ll get their jobs back.

A former senior center employee, who asked not to be named, told The Breeze this week that the months of sitting at home without answers about the future have been trying. The hope is that the town will rehire all 11 of the laid-off employees, said the worker, but Mayor Charles Lombardi has been noncommittal about who might be hired back when the town takes over the center as a municipal department.

Lombardi said Monday that he hadn’t heard anything more from the center’s board of directors about the town’s planned takeover of the center.

The Breeze reported last week that the board was looking for the town to pay off some $63,000 in bills as part of a transition from a nonprofit to a municipal department.

The former employee who spoke this week said it’s been difficult to watch utility bills continue to climb, as doors are opened almost daily for seniors to use the facility on their own, even as employees are sitting home.

Also difficult, said the employee, was hearing that Executive Director Karen Testa Leone was still being paid weeks and months after other employees were laid off.

The town takeover is happening after three years of conflict over the operations of the center. The Town Council voted 4-3 in June to cut all $500,000 in municipal funding to the center, with all seven council members expressing frustration that they still weren’t getting all the answers to their questions about the center’s finances.

Ultimately, said the former employee, workers want to “go back to the center and serve the people of North Providence.” Ex-employees are collecting unemployment benefits, but don’t have access to the pay or benefits they were receiving before.

The employee was one of several who went on unemployment in September. Employees laid off in June and September have been forced to chase paychecks that were owed to them, said the worker.

The worker said the best thing for everyone would have been to close the doors at the senior center right away, after the town cut funding, to save additional expenses and do right by the laid-off employees.

“That’s the way businesses are run,” said the worker. “Your number one priority is the employees, and then all other bills.”