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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, Decemer 16, 2010

G’land settles three contracts with no raises, PBA remains

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Contracts with three out of the town’s four unions have been settled without pay raises for employees.

Only the police contract is left, but Supervisor Kenneth Runion told The Enterprise the “gap is wide” between what the Police Benevolent Association is asking for, and what the town can provide.

“I’m kind of pleased that, so far, out of 250 full-time employees, all but 35 have agreed to a 0-percent salary increase,” said the supervisor. Most town workers are not in a union.

The United Public Service Employees, or the paramedics, and Civil Service Employees Association Unit A contracts were approved last week; the contract for CSEA Unit B was approved in November.

None of the contracts allow for pay raises for any of the employees. In previous years, union workers had an automatic 3-percent pay raise built into the annual town budget.

The paramedics’ salaries will remain at $38,050 for full-time employees upon hire, and $45,405 after five years; and $20.32 per hour for part-time employees upon hire, to $24.25 per hour after five years.

The CSEA Unit A contract outlines three positions — the director of animal services, starting at $40,807 annually and going to $50,047 after five years; a tele-communicator that starts at $34,677 and goes to $42,854 after five years; and a senior tele-communicator that starts at $51,003, and goes to $63,365 after five years.

The CSEA Unit B, with 27 members, has salaries that range from a courier’s starting salary of $20,675, which goes to $25,641 after five years, to a building inspector’s starting salary of $39,291, which goes to $49,155 after five years. Unit B also includes positions paid by an hourly rate: a custodial worker with a starting hourly rate of $11.72 and a rate of $14.04 after five years, and a senior citizen bus driver with a starting hourly rate of $12.56 and a rate of $17.05 after five years.

Runion said the status quo salaries are necessary for 2011, to avoid raising taxes. The cost of health insurance and the retirement contributions have both increased, he said, so even though employees won’t get a pay raise, extra monetary contributions are built into employees’ benefits.

“The units have understood what’s going on in this economy, they understand that revenues are tight for local governments, and that layoffs are contemplated on the state level,” said Runion. He said the members of the three unions whose contracts were successfully negotiated were willing to accept the lack of raises in exchange for a no-layoff provision.

PBA gap

The police, however, are asking for “fairly substantial increases in salary,” according to Runion.  He said the PBA was also asking for an enhanced retirement system and enhanced health insurance benefits.

The Guilderland PBA has 35 members, and its salaries are set by rank.

Officers make $44,702 upon hire in 2010, $71,125 after five years, and $74,603 after 18 years; senior patrol officers make $57,602 upon hire and $77,062 after 18 years; sergeants make $73,488 to start and $84,057 after 18 years; first sergeants make $75,205 to start and $85,239 after 18 years; detectives make $45,547 to start and $76,448 after 18 years; and senior detectives make $50,164 to start and $80,064 after 18 years.  

Overtime pay adds substantially to police pay. Salaries in 2010 ranged from $61,207 to $119,599, and five officers were paid over $100,000.

Runion said the town board has met with PBA representatives once this month already, and will meet with them again on Dec. 17.

“They are making demands we don’t have the capability to meet. It is kind of hard to offer what you don’t have,” said Runion. If the town and PBA can’t come to an agreement on the contract, the next step would be to take it to the Public Employee Relations Board, which does mediation.

If the PERB could not resolve the issue, the police could demand binding arbitration, which means an outside arbitrator would be hired to make decisions on what type of salary increases or other benefits should be added to the contract.

“They are going to ask for a lot more than they anticipate they’ll get, and we’ll ask them to take less than what we will probably get to in the end,” Runion said. Ken Harrison, the president of the PBA, did not return Enterprise phone calls.

“We are really in the early stages of negotiation, and it’s premature to make any predictions. We are committed to working with the town,” said Michael Ravalli, attorney to the PBA.

GOP dissent

Not all of the town board members are satisfied with the contracts. The two contracts that were approved this month passed with a 3-to-2 vote, split down party lines. The two Republican councilmen, Mark Grimm and Warren Redlich, said they thought there were unnecessary “extras” in the contracts.

Members of the two CSEA units received one extra personal day per year, and the paramedics were granted an extra floating holiday.

“In the contracts we’ve approved, we’ve basically done a wage-freeze and promised no lay-offs. I think we should have stood our ground and said no to the extra personal day; the no lay-off clause was enough already,” Redlich said. He said he thought people were particularly motivated by the no layoff clause, and he didn’t feel that the lack of an extra personal day would have led to a rejection of the contracts.

“When you give someone an extra personal day, you can never take it back. At a certain point, you have to say, ‘That’s enough,’” said Redlich. Grimm agreed with him.

“They wanted to add more time off for employees, and we already have very generous packages,” Grimm said.

“There aren’t too many municipalities that can say they successfully negotiated contracts with no pay raises. I think the town board appreciates the cooperation we’ve received from all of the unions,” Runion concluded. “Everyone has come in with an open mind.”

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