Johnstown in talks with police, fire unions

Contracts with firemen, police expired Dec. 31

JOHNSTOWN — The city has started negotiating with its police and fire unions, whose contracts expired Dec. 31.

“We’re talking, one more than the other,” city Treasurer Michael Gifford said Friday.

Otherwise, Gifford said he couldn’t elaborate on the current state of negotiations, nor set a timeframe for their expected conclusion.

The city is being assisted by Roemer, Wallens, Gold & Mineaux, LLP in Albany.

City government has three unions, all of which had contracts that expired at the end of last year.

The city’s Civil Service Employees Association settled the first of the contracts with the city. The Common Council on May 15 ratified a new three-year contract with that union. CSEA, AFSCME Local 1000, consists of the employees of the city’s Department of Public Works and Water Department.

Now, the city is setting its sights on the other two unions. Pending new contracts are with the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association and the Johnstown Firefighters Association.

It is unclear if the city will freeze wages for 2017 on the police and fire as it did on the CSEA unit. According to the recently approved memorandum of agreement, unionized CSEA workers are receiving a wage freeze for 2017. CSEA members are receiving 2 percent raises for 2018, and 2.5 percent wage hikes for 2019.

Gifford said the city is dealing with PBA President Seth Miller and JFA President Larry O’Regan on the new contracts.

The city police union’s last retroactive contract was ratified by the Common Council in July 2013. The roughly 22-member union, at that time, received 2.7 percent average annual pay raises through 2016. The city and the police union negotiated for several years to reach a deal, but wound up at an impasse. The sides ended up agreeing with the help of a state Public Employment Relations Board-assigned mediator in December 2012.

The roughly 25-member Johnstown Firefighters Association has worked off extensions to a previous contract the past several years. For example, the Common Council in Feb. 2011 approved a two-year extension to the union’s pact that gave union members $1,000 raises, instead of typical percentage increases.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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