Union to sue over Fulton County memo

A local public employee union is filing a lawsuit against Fulton County, alleging improper labor pra

A local public employee union is filing a lawsuit against Fulton County, alleging improper labor practices after it says county officials attempted to directly negotiate with members over a stalled contract.

Civil Service Employees Association Local 818 President Ron Briggs said the county violated the law by forwarding a memo to all 480 of its union members encouraging them “to vote” on the county’s current proposal.

“They can communicate, but they can’t directly negotiate with the members,” said Briggs. “We are their representatives. The process is they have a team, we have a team, the teams talk and work it out. And that’s what they didn’t do, they went around the team.”

The Sept. 20 memo sent by Personnel Committee Chairman Gregory Fagan was directed to all county department heads, with a note to forward it on to all union members, Briggs said. Fagan and Board of Supervisors Chairman David Howard could not be reached Wednesday.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead declined to comment on the lawsuit, he said, because “this is all related to collective bargaining and ongoing contract negotiations.”

Union and county management have been negotiating a new contract for more than two years, after the previous contract expired in December 2009. The two sides declared an impasse over negotiations earlier this year and met with a mediator in July.

The proposal laid out at that meeting offered very little for union members, Briggs said, but he agreed to bring it back to the members and gauge their opinion, which he said members “overwhelmingly felt wasn’t the deal for us.”

“We wanted to make sure our members knew what’s going on and get a feel for what they thought of it,” Briggs said. “We did that and let management know and told them their answer, but that we were more than willing to get back to the table. Their answer to that was to send a letter to our members.”

Briggs declined to detail what the proposal entailed, but he said the offers of monetary packages, including salary, for union members aren’t what they should be, given the cost of living.

State law mandates that the provisions of a public employee union contract must remain in place until both sides reach a new deal.

“We want something different,” Briggs said. “We understand that it is an economic crisis and there have been two years without a pay raise, but we remain optimistic.”

Fulton County supervisors have spent the better part of the last year struggling to rein in spending and voted in August to impose a hiring freeze until the end of the year.

On top of budget woes is a mandated property tax cap designed to limit the county’s tax increase to 1.6 percent or 1.7 percent.

“I think part of this is [supervisors] make it sound dire,” Briggs said. “And while it is a hard time we are in, we need to figure out what services we need in this community and not allow 20 or 25 supervisors to make that decision for us. These cuts that they’re making are going to have monumental impact on our community.”

The CSEA local issued a memo to its members in response to the county being in contact with them, Briggs said, but it issued no response to county management.

“I think we clearly disagree with him doing this,” he said. “I think it is illegal to do and not part of the process, and it goes to the bigger issue of management not valuing employees.”

Briggs said Wednesday the union will file the civil service suit within “a day or so” under the Public Employees’ Fair Employment Act.

Categories: Schenectady County

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