BPU, Union In Contract Disagreement

Jamestown Board of Public Utilities management wants changes to the wage scale, sick leave and vacation time for some new employees.

On Jan. 7, BPU management and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 459 declared an impasse on negotiating a new contract agreement. The union had been working under a five-year contract. The two sides had been discussing a new three-year contract since September. Local 459 includes 82 BPU employees who work as customer service, electric, water and wastewater employees.

At 3:30 p.m. on Monday, June 23, a public hearing will be held at the BPU, 92 Steele St., so both parties can discuss the fact-finder’s report. The BPU management has rejected the fact-finder’s report and recommendations.

After new contract negotiations failed and the impasse was declared, both parties participated in mediation on March 12 and March 19. After the second session, the mediator advised both parties to proceed with a fact-finder, who is Donna Beal. Beal heard both cases on May 6, and released her report on May 12.

The issues before Beal included wages, employee contributions to health insurance, retirement contributions to health insurance and bifurcated wages and benefits. Beal stated in her report that both parties seem to be in agreement except when it comes to bifurcated wages and benefits. The union and management agree that this is the sticking point in the negotiations. The union believes no new contract will be passed with an element of bifurcation, or multiple pay and benefit scales for employees. BPU management has stated some element of bifurcation is essential to a new contract.

The management wants changes for new employees; no current employees would be affected. Management wants changes to the sick leave policy, accumulation of sick leave and vacation time, and a new wage scale that would change from four to eight steps.

The union has stated that these proposed changes would lead to a less homogeneous membership in terms of wages and benefits for all employees. The union also has said management has given insufficient evidence to why there needs to be any changes to wages and benefits for new employees.

Beal has recommended that the proposed wage step change would be too wide to go from four to eight steps. She also didn’t agree with the proposed changes to sick leave proposed by management.