Fulton County

Contract talks at standstill with four Gloversville labor unions

The city is at a standstill in negotiations with two unions whose contracts expired Dec. 31. 2010, a

The city is at a standstill in negotiations with two unions whose contracts expired Dec. 31. 2010, and it has yet to begin negotiations with two other unions whose contracts expire at the end of this year, said Commissioner of Finance Bruce VanGenderen.

The city has expired contracts with Teamsters Local 294, which represents nine employees in the Gloversville Transit System; and with the Gloversville Police Benevolent Association, which represents all Police Department employees but Chief Donald VanDeusen. PBA President Dennis Smith was not available for comment Tuesday.

Contracts set to expire this year are with the CSEA, which represents Department of Public Works employees and office staff, and the Gloversville Firefighters Association.

VanGenderen said the city has not reached impasse with the Teamsters and PBA, but that talks have stopped. “At this point, it is up in the air.”

Mayor Dayton King said the city’s and the Teamsters’ negotiating committees decided to bring proposals to the Teamsters’ membership and the City Council recently, but that the membership turned it down.

“We will continue to negotiate, but I have not been a huge supporter of the transit system,” King said. The city would like to have the teamsters pay more for their health insurance plans, as the city has required of its non-union staff. “They are paying next to nothing for a family plan,” King said of the Teamsters.

VanGenderen said a health insurance plan that covers a family costs the city approximately $23,000 annually, while a two-person plan is close to $17,000.

Tom Quackenbush, a business agent representing the Teamsters, said although the membership has rejected the proposals, “We are still negotiating.” He said the negotiating teams “thought we could bring an offer to both sides and there were three or four items which were not OK with our group.”

Quackenbush added the membership has agreed to several concessions already. “We agreed to a health insurance change that would save city $40,000 this year and more thereafter.”

The city recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gloversville Firefighters Association that is separate from negotiations pertaining to a new contract, King said. The agreement continues a prior one-year agreement that expired in May.

The new agreement gives the city the right to not fill vacancies in the Fire Department for one year. Without the agreement, the city would have to fill vacancies in the department, as the union has minimal staffing provisions in its contract — a minimum of seven firefighters on each of three shifts and eight on the fourth shift. There is also a no-layoff clause in the current contract.

With three retirements in the past year, there are now 29 firefighters. King said the Fire Department is making due by filling in with overtime. He said that while the lower staff level saves the city money, the city is seeing an increase in overtime costs. He said the department is generating 100 hours of overtime per week.

VanGenderen said the overtime costs are coming in as expected. “They are not any higher than what we anticipated they would be. They are running on track, we knew they would be higher. The offset is we are down a couple of folks over there. With costs of individuals and fringe benefits, we feel that we are not into a negative situation,” he said.

King said his goal is to reduce staffing in the Fire Department to seven people per shift with a minimal staffing of six. He said cities of similar size, which he said include Amsterdam, Cohoes and Johnstown, have fire department staffing of between five and six people per shift without loss of coverage.

A spokesman for the firefighters union was not available for comment Tuesday.

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