Nearing An Agreement

MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County may soon have a contract with members of CSEA Unit 6300.

The county’s current contract with CSEA expired Dec. 31, 2011, and the parties have been at impasse since 2012. A fact finder was appointed on Oct. 10, 2012, but mediation and further negotiations continued this year until May. The fact finder issued her report in late August, which included the following recommendations on wages, health insurance and additional layoff rights for a four-year contract:

The agreements include no retroactive pay increases for 2012 and 2013, a 41 cent per hour raise in 2014 and a 2 percent pay raise in 2015. The salary schedule for the last year of the expired showed an hourly range of between $12.03 at Grade 1, Step 1 to $81.00 at Grade 45, Step 9. The average salary for union members in 2012 was $42,485 a year.

During mediation prior to the appointment of a fact finder, the county had offered no raises in 2012 and 2013 and 2 percent raises in 2014 and 2015. The union had also offered no raises in 2012 and 2013, but wage increases of 62 cents an hour for all employees in 2014, equivalent to a 3 percent wage increase, and 2.5 percent in 2014.

Health insurance premiums were frozen for 2012 and 2013 and will increase in 2014 and 2015 while third-tier drug prescription co-pays will increase to $50 in 2014. The fact finder also avoided health care cost increases in years where there was no pay increase. An optional high deductible health care plan will be made available to all employees and additional layoff rights for employees that held other positions before their lay-off will be available.

The layoff rights were a sticking point throughout the negotiations, according to the fact finder’s report, remaining an open issue until at least late April.

Chautauqua County has 1,199 employees in the CSEA 6300 bargaining unit, about 71 percent of total county workers, and includes skilled and unskilled blue and white collar employees who are paid on an hourly basis.

County Executive Greg Edwards said he hopes the CSEA will also accept the recommendations of the fact finder and that a tentative agreement could then be presented to the County Legislature for ratification.

“The fact finder’s report strikes a reasonable balance between the parties’ bargaining positions and it is in the best interest of the county,” Edwards said. “In addition, the county’s open enrollment period for health insurance is conducted in November and I want all county employees to have the opportunity to choose the optional high deductible health plan if it best fits their needs.”