JOHNSTOWN -The head of Fulton County government's 480-member general union said a state mediator might pull out of negotiations between the county and the union if his membership "isn't close" to approving a new deal Aug. 4.
Leaders of both sides involved in contract negotiations aimed at resolving an impasse between county government and its primary employee union had different accounts on how Thursday's initial session went with state Public Employment Relations Board-appointed arbitrator John Trela of Schenectady.
Talks for a new contract between county government and its general union from Civil Service Employees Association, Local 818 reached an impasse three months ago. Both sides met Thursday in Johnstown for the first time with Trela.
"It was a very productive day," Board of Supervisors' Personnel Committee Chairman Greg Fagan said Monday. "It remains to be seen if we can come to an agreement in the negotiations."
But CSEA Local 818 President Ronald Briggs, representing the county employees, said even though "we were very civil to each other," talks Thursday with Trela did not go well.
"We were farther away from a deal [Thursday] than before we met with the mediator," Briggs said.
He said if his members don't agree by Aug. 4, PERB may pull its arbitrator out of future negotiations.
Briggs said his union has a general membership meeting Aug. 4, at which time the latest contract terms will be shared. He said Trela and PERB indicated Thursday that if the CSEA members are "close" to agreeing to terms Aug. 4, another meeting between both sides and Trela will be scheduled for sometime in September.
But if the union "isn't close" to a new agreement, Briggs said PERB officials said there wouldn't be anything they could do and may pull the mediator from talks.
Trela couldn't be reached for comment last week or today.
Both the general unit CSEA union and the county's nurses unit have worked without a contract for about 18 months. The last one-year contract between the county and the CSEA general and nurses units expired Dec. 31, 2009. It carried 2.5 percent raises. Both sides have been negotiating for new four-year deals that would cover 2010 retroactively and go forward through 2013.
The county is simultaneously trying to negotiate a new contract with the 25-member nurses unit, but those negotiations haven't reached the impasse stage.
During contract negotiations in March, it was disclosed Fulton County wants the two unions to forgo raises in the first two years of any new four-year contracts that may be worked out. The county hasn't changed its position. The county has also been proposing only 1 percent raises for each of the last two years of the unions' contracts.
Briggs said Monday there are other important issues besides raises that need to be resolved.
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.