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City, police at impasse in contract bargaining

February 22, 2013
LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE-The city and the union representing the police department, the Police Benevolent Association, have been working under the terms of its previous contract with the city since the pact expired in 2010. The two sides haven't had new contract negotiations since.

"Our contract expired Jan. 1, 2010," Dennis Smith, president of the city PBA said. "The city administration, which is the mayor, has not had any substantive or meaningful negotiations since. That is not to say we haven't had meetings."

He said the PBA has sent dozens of letters requesting negotiations to the city labor attorney but haven't had "any meaningful negotiations" as a result of that.

The city labor attorney, Bryan Goldberger, was unavailable for comment on this story.

"The mayor has failed to negotiate in a reasonable, timely manner," Smith said. "Nor do we see anything on the horizon to suggest that he is serious about negotiating with our union, and we are the union that has been out of contract for the longest."

"The police have been past due and at this point we will get together in the near future," Mayor Dayton King said. "We just need to have the right proposals to be put together. We have four open contracts, and we are just looking for it to be right between the city and the employees."

The city also is in negotiations with the Gloversville Firefighters Associations, the Teamsters and the Civil Service Employees Association unions.

Every public service union is working under the terms of the previous contract until a new contract is negotiated.

Smith declined to comment on the exact issues the police department will look to address when negotiating for the new contract begins.

"With any contractual negotiations, you look to better your benefit package, you look to better your pay scale, and you look to better your work environment," Smith said. "On the opposite side of that, your employer looks to minimize."

"We have given them some health care options that we would like to see them switch towards," Mayor King said. "We can certainly sit down at any time if they are willing to have some meaningful discussions, but it can't be we need more money and we are not going to change health insurance."

The PBA represents all members of the police department excluding Police Chief Donald VanDeusen.

Smith said the previous contract was a five-year agreement, but the union has recommended, since it is already three years out of contract, to have the next contract be a six- or seven-year deal.

"It gives us three to four working years to be in a valid operating contract because we are three years out and also it gives the city the opportunity to have known expenditures," Smith said. "It gives the city the opportunity to establish a short- and long-term financial plan for the city. Without contracts in place, the city just goes day by day with no short- or longer- term plan whatsoever. A vital key to establishing a long-term sustainable economic plan for the city is to have contracts in place."

"I am all for planning ahead, certainly if we can lock in a long-term contract and plan our expenses I would love to be able to do that," King said. "In some cases, however, we don't know what the insurance rates will change [to]. We had a 14 and 19 percent increase the last couple of years and obviously between health care and pensions those are unknown costs, so I would hate to lock the city in when those cost keep going up. If we lock ourselves into paying that for six or seven years, we want to make sure if the city if going to pay more, the employee pays more as well. We just have to come to an agreement in that aspect."

Smith also emphasized the importance of all city employees to the city, besides just the police department.

"City employees are the heart of the city," Smith said. "Administrations come and go, but it's the people that invest 20 or 30 years in the city that take care of the operation of doing the business for the city. We invest decades of our lives for the city, and the citizens that live here."

Levi Pascher covers Gloversville news. He can be reached by email at gloversville@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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