The town of Niskayuna has approved contracts with both the town’s Police Benevolent Association and water and sewer workers.
The PBA contract, a 2-year agreement, is retroactive to 2018. It calls for a 2 1/4 percent salary increase for the first year and a 2 percent increase for 2019.
The agreement for water and sewer workers is a 5-year deal, which begins this year. Like police officers, water and sewer employees will earn a 2 1/4 percent salary increase for the first year of the contract. Workers will receive a 2 percent increase in each of the four subsequent years
“In terms of the PBA contract, what was important was, they were working without a contract for almost a year,” said Town Board Member Denise Murphy McGraw, who along with town Supervisor Yasmine Syed and town attorney Paul Briggs, was part of the negotiating team for the town with the PBA. “We wanted to get this resolved. It was one of the first things I discussed with the supervisor during our first meeting a year ago.”
McGraw said the monetary total for the PBA increases – the 2 1/4 percent increase and the 2 percent increase for this calendar year – is $42,742.
Once negotiations started, agreement details were reached in about eight weeks. McGraw believes the contract is fair for both the town and the 27-member PBA.
“I think the police are being asked to do a lot now in our town,” McGraw said. “Our town is changing. I think the last few months’ news cycles have proved that. They unfortunately are having to spend more time in our schools, addressing issues that are time-consuming and frightening in many ways.”
Supervisor Yasmine Syed said the PBA contract was of primary importance.
“PBA union members had a carryover contract, it’s not they were out of contract,” she said. “There’s always an insecurity when you have a pending concert that’s sort of looming. I was really pleased to get that out of the way retro for 2018 and then move forward for 2019. So we’re all going to reconvene, probably in a couple months and start talking about 2020 so we’re not in the same position.”
PBA President Brandon Maura did not reply to an email seeking comment on the contract.
McGraw offered an explanation regarding the gap between PBA contracts.
“I just think that of all the things that needed to get done at the end of (former Supervisor) Joe Landry’s last term, it just didn’t get done, then through the transition. Both the supervisor and I considered it a top priority and we went about getting it done. Once we sat down and began negotiating in earnest, it went very quickly.”
McGraw also said she believes the police contract is fair to the taxpayer.
“It’s not a large increase,” she said. “We try to give our employees, who are not within contracts, not part of a collective bargaining unit, we try to give our employees cost of living raises and this is well within that range.”
McGraw said other work must be done for PBA employees.
“There’s an outstanding pension issue that impacts only four long-term members of of the force,” she said, “however it is very expensive so the town has been unable to address it in the past.
“They were not put in the proper pension system when they started their employment with the town,” McGraw added. “We’ll try to address this issue within the next collective bargaining agreement.
Syed and McGraw said one of the keys to the contract with water and sewer workers was its duration.
“I was really happy with the fact that we were able to agree on a 5-year contract,” Syed said. “That’s five years of security and planning we can have numbers to budget out so it makes out lives here that much easier and it gives us that much more security as we go forward in any of our future budget processes.”
“It’s a particular achievement for us, a real victory, because of the number of years,” McGraw said of the long contract. “It’s very time consuming and it’s labor intensive to have these negotiations. To be able to have a long-term agreement, something we know we can look at year after year and be able to budget for, is a real benefit to the town.”
Twenty water and sewer employees are represented by CSEA. Their salary increases of 2 1/4 percent mean a town expenditure of $24,203 for the town during 2019.
“They do very valuable work, they keep our water clean and safe, so we need to show these folks our appreciation,” McGraw said.
Syed said the increases for both the police and water-sewer units are not budget-busters.
“That was our goal, to be as fair as possible without breaking the budget,” Syed said. “These were all within reach, so we’re pleased the union members agreed to it.”