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November 11, 2012

City rejects raise for stop-gap contract with union

PLATTSBURGH — City of Plattsburgh councilors have rejected a request for a 1.5 percent raise for union workers in a one-year deal.

“We’re disappointed with that, but it was not unexpected,” Union President Chris Bleaux said.

Members of the American Federation of State County Municipal Employees Local 788 have been working under the provisions of a contract that was to expire June 30, 2009. There have been several attempts to reach a new deal, but none have been successful so far.

The city offered an agreement in February 2011, but it never went forward, and the union and city argued over who was responsible for the proposal dying on the vine.

A recent report from a neutral fact-finder from the state’s Public Employees Relations Board said in part, “each party has a different story to tell over whether, in fact, an agreement was reached and why bargaining broke down at the point which the parties were certainly close to an agreement.”

From there, the negotiations went to a mediator, but nothing was resolved. The fact-finder was then brought in, and his recent report suggested some compromises.

The fact-finder recommended a five-year deal with raises of 1.5, 1.5, 2, 2.5 and 2.5 percent.

The city was seeking 1 percent for each of the five years, while the union sought raises of 2 percent the first year and 2.5 percent the next four years.

In the February 2011 proposal, the city had offered higher raises but then lowered them in subsequent negotiations in light of the state’s newly imposed tax-levy cap that year.

“We just could no longer afford it,” Mayor Donald Kasprzak said.

HEALTH INSURANCE

The fact-finder also recommended that all union employees contribute to health-insurance premiums starting with 5 percent in 2009, 10 percent in 2010 and 15 percent in 2011 and forward.

Now, all 18 employees hired before May 25, 1993, pay nothing for health insurance, while all others pay 15 percent. The city wanted all employees to pay 15 percent immediately.

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