Schenectady

Schenectady librarians speak out against union contract

The main branch of the Schenectady County Public Library at 99 Clinton St. is seen in a file photo.
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The main branch of the Schenectady County Public Library at 99 Clinton St. is seen in a file photo.

A new five-year union contract will impact what services Schenectady County librarians can provide, according to a library unit president and employees. 

The librarians, who fall under the CSEA union, would go from a 37.5-hour workweek to a 35-hour workweek and lose eight administrative leave days. They would work 81 fewer hours with the addition of the holiday Juneteenth.  

“They’re working more days but fewer hours per year,” said Chris Gardner, the county attorney. 

Gardner said the county feels the librarians are being treated fairly.

He said the librarians had a representative at the contract negotiations, which passed 363 to 39.

But the move has angered the librarians,some of whom spoke earlier in the week during privilege of the floor at a Legislature meeting. 

“When you cut staff time you cut programs and close buildings,” said Kaela Wallman, the coordinator for youth services, during the meeting.

A 1973 arbitration ruling determined that because librarians were working more hours they should be compensated by getting 10 administrative leave days. However, Gardner said it wasn’t written in the contract.

“Most of the union wasn’t aware of it except those that worked at the library,” he said. “Most of the management wasn’t aware of it either.”

He said that while having shorter days may be a difficult adjustment, management felt that having people take 10 days off made staffing the libraries harder. 

The librarians feel the opposite. 

“As someone who manages the schedule for our adult references desk I can tell you right now this is going to cost money,” said Christine Filipelli, the adult services librarian, during the public comment period. “I’m going to have to call in subs to cover those hours.” 

She was also upset that the county made it a point to commend themselves on establishing paid family leave to help stem the tide of people leaving to find work elsewhere, but cut librarians’ administrative leave. 

“How can the county say on one hand that offering a time-off benefit will help lessen younger employees moving on to better positions and then on the other hand eliminate time-off benefits that overwhelmingly impact younger and newer county employees working in one department?” she said. “Eliminating admin leave, changing our work hours and still asking us to perform the same level of service as before just doesn’t make sense.”

The librarians also said they shouldn’t be compared to other county departments because they don’t operate like other county departments — staying open later and on weekends. 

Most county agencies are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Christine Symes, the library unit president, said she doesn’t believe the change saves the county any money either. 

Gardner couldn’t be reached for further comment on the matter. 

The librarians are asking for the county to reject the contract and add back 2.5 hours and administrative leave. 

“We may not be a mandate for the county but we are essential to our community,” said Robin Pelton, who was at the contract negotiations and spoke during public comment.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

One Comment

SHARON FLOOD

What is an administrative day? On top of vacation days, sick leave and holidays they were getting 8 x 7.5 hours off – which is 60 hours!!!!! I see nothing in the article about how much they make in terms of raises – are they getting a cut in pay or the same pay with all the raises that everyone else is getting? Are they getting the family leave they referred to? The article leaves a lot out.

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