Press-Republican

October 2, 2013

Union talks fail in Franklin County

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — For the second year in a row, Franklin County is having trouble closing negotiations for a new contract for one of its employee unions.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department Association has not ratified the mediated-settlement contract presented to it last week.

The union represents almost all of the County Jail and Sheriff’s Department employees, who have been working under the provisions of the previous contract since it expired in 2011.

That’s also the same year the county pulled a 3 percent raise that members were expecting.

Marty Wright, the union’s representative at the Sheriff’s Department, declined to comment, referring questions to United Public Service Employees Union Labor Relations Representative Phil Sedlock.

PAY HIKES OFFERED

County Manager Thomas Leitz said the county offered the employees 2-percent raises retroactive to Aug. 21, another 2 percent in 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015.

“This is more than generous in today’s environment,” he said in news release.

He said he didn’t want to present the proposed settlement offer to legislators to ratify because, he added, “several members would not support raises higher than the 2 percent tax cap.”

Leitz said an hourly incentive for hazard pay would also be part of the new contract.

CLOSE VOTE

Sedlock said the mediated settlement didn’t include the longevity pay and retroactive payments to January that the union membership wanted, but he took the offer to them anyway.

“We felt there was enough money there to show to them and let them vote,” he said. “We felt it was important that they weigh in, but they were not too happy.”

He said the vote was close, but it did not pass, so the next step is to go to fact-finding, where each side files their reasons for their stance, new terms are offered, and the deal goes to a vote.

If it is ratified, the new three-year contract is in place.

And if it isn’t passed, the county can impose a one-year contract with no raise attached, Sedlock said. 

“They got no raise in 2012 and none so far in 2013,” he said of the deputies and jail staff. “They wanted retroactive back to January, but the county offered back to Aug. 21.

“Now, we’ve got to take the next step.”

 REJECTED HEALTH PLAN

The county also wants the Sheriff’s Department workers to sign on to the health-insurance plan that covers a majority of the other county employees.

The county manager said union members who rejected the contract “will need to understand the reality of their actions.

“By spending more on health insurance, we simply have less to spend elsewhere, and as we look toward difficult years ahead, the possibility of a retroactive increase of any kind becomes distant at best and, more likely, impossible.”

RAISE RESCINDED

The sheriff’s union was promised a 3 percent raise in the final year of its previous contract in 2011, but legislators facing a difficult budget year exercised a provision that allowed either party to opt out if the county’s fiscal problems did not improve.

The county said it would save $60,000 by canceling the raise.

The cancelled raise has been brought up in another context lately as a sheriff’s deputy was accused of targeting a county legislator for arrest.

During a heated discussion at a County Legislature meeting on Sept. 5, deputies were also accused of ridiculing and mocking legislators during the department’s daily roll call, something Undersheriff Patrick White admitted has happened since the anticipated raise was pulled.

In September 2012, the county declared an impasse with its largest Public Employees union of more than 450 workers (not including the Sheriff’s Department employers) when its leadership in Albany rejected a proposal without local-membership approval.

It was later resolved.

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com