Press-Republican

April 16, 2013

Essex County inks CSEA pact

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — After one failed attempt, Essex County lawmakers and the Civil Service Employees Association have ratified a new labor agreement.

The three-year contract replaces a four-year pact that expired at the end of 2012.

It was affirmed by a 14-0 vote of the County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning. Supervisors Roby Politi (R-North Elba), William Ferebee (R-Keene), Sharon Boisen (I-Essex) and Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) were absent.

The new contract is slightly better than the first offer for workers and includes an additional 1 percent raise.

The second vote by CSEA Local 816 passed on April 9 by a tally of 193-63 and includes no raises this year but 1 percent more in 2014 and 2 percent in 2015.

ISSUES RESOLVED

The union had defeated the first proposal on Jan. 29 by a vote of 205-87. It would have given no raises the first two years and 2 percent in the last year, along with changing some administrative procedures that workers felt went against the union.

County Manager Daniel Palmer said those issues were resolved when county and union negotiators went back to the bargaining table.

The new contract does remove the built-in daily four hours of overtime for workers in the County Sheriff’s Department, who work 12-hour shifts at the County Jail. It allows up to 84 hours of straight time in a work period before overtime is paid.

The overtime change will save the county $175,000 a year, County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

“We essentially gave up 1 percent in wages for the overtime,” he said.

‘FAIR CONTRACT’

Outside the meeting, CSEA Local 816 President Michael McGinn said they tried to retain benefits that workers felt were essential.

“I think it’s a fair contract,” he said. “We identified the top three issues from last time. We worked on them, I hope to everyone’s satisfaction.”

He said they weren’t necessarily giving up anything but just adjusting some procedures.

‘COMPROMISE FOR ALL’

The new contract also makes some adjustments to the county’s health-insurance and retirement programs that will save money, County Attorney Daniel Manning III said.

He said new employees must now work at least 20 years for the county to be eligible for retirement benefits. It was just five years at one time, he said.

Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said the new pact is a compromise for everyone.

“They (Palmer and Manning) put extra effort into it after it (the contract) got voted down the first time,” Douglas said. “They did a very good job.”

Palmer said there are no new benefits in the contract for the union.

“It ... allows them to hold on to some of those items they felt were important.”

‘FAR LESS RANCOR’

Supervisor David Blades (R-Lewis) said he was concerned that only about half the eligible workers voted.

“I would have liked to see larger numbers, to represent a true decision by CSEA members.”

Palmer said there was a larger turnout for the first vote, and the smaller turnout may have been because this one was apparently more agreeable to union members.

The county has 400 union workers out of about 700 total. Non-union workers got 2 percent raises this year.

Canon, who chaired the negotiating committee, said there was far less rancor in negotiations than previous pacts.

“It was a good job by all.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com