Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs City Hall workers get small raises under new labor deal

CSEA workers in City Hall will get modest pay increases as part of a new four-year contract approved

CSEA workers in City Hall will get modest pay increases as part of a new four-year contract approved by the union and the City Council.

Council members unanimously approved the deal, which provides retroactive 2.5 percent pay increases for 2013 and 2014 as well as 2 percent increases in 2015 and 2016. The deal was approved by a 57-1 vote by union membership late last month.

The pay increases in the new contract are in addition to any step increases already due workers. In total, the new pact will cost the city roughly $450,000 in its 2015 budget, but resolves a contract that expired Dec. 31, 2012.

“When this administration took over we inherited seven expired labor contracts,” Mayor Joanne Yepsen said during the council’s meeting.

Still outstanding are contracts for Department of Public Works workers, firefighters and police. There are also unresolved contracts for the three bargaining units covering police and fire department administration and police lieutenants.

Resolving labor contracts was previously a costly endeavor for the city. From 2008 to 2010, the city paid $383,701 to outside legal counsel — much of it to lawyers specializing in union contract-related issues and collective bargaining. The amount spent on outside counsel became a point of contention between city Democrats and then-Mayor Scott Johnson, a Republican, who defended the expenditures as helping secure labor agreements more favorable to the taxpayers in the long run.

Yepsen, a Democrat who replaced Johnson in January, selected Sarah Burger to serve as city attorney in part because of her background in labor law, public- and private-sector labor relations and contract negotiation.

“This contract was taken care of in-house with no outside help,” Yepsen said of the resolved CSEA contract.

Labor unions work under terms of their previous contract while negotiating new deals. This practice can create a fiscal uncertainty that can threaten the city’s bond rating, explained Michele Madigan, the city’s finance commissioner. “Otherwise the budget isn’t accurately reflected,” she said.

Madigan said the city was warned last year its unresolved labor contracts could have a negative impact. The city was, however, able to maintain its AA+ bond rating for 2014, according to a report released last month by Standard & Poor’s Rating Services.

The agency listed the city as having a stable outlook — something that helped the city secure a 2.8 percent interest rate on $5.12 million in public improvement bonds issued last month.

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