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Arbitration results in back pay for Saratoga County deputies

Arbitration results in back pay for Saratoga County deputies

A state arbitration panel has imposed a contract settlement on Saratoga County and its sheriff’s dep

A state arbitration panel has imposed a contract settlement on Saratoga County and its sheriff’s deputies’ union that will cost the county nearly $550,000.

The binding award will provide the 112 members of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Police Benevolent Association with a 1 percent raise for 2010 and a 1.5 percent increase for 2011, costing the county $547,563 in back wages.

However, the arbitrator denied a county request that deputies start contributing toward their health insurance in those years, and froze the base pay of new deputies for those years.

The arbitration award came from the Public Employment Relations Board last month, after both sides sought arbitration. They have been without a contract agreement since December 2009.

County Administrator Spencer Hellwig III said the sides tried to negotiate a new contract and failed, and a PERB mediation effort then failed, allowing the parties to seeking binding arbitration.

An arbitration hearing was held in Ballston Spa in January, leading to an award finding that was signed Aug. 15 in Albany.

The county board’s Law and Finance Committee accepted the award at a meeting Wednesday in Ballston Spa, and the full Board of Supervisors will vote on it Tuesday.

Binding arbitration is a rarely used provision of the state’s Taylor Law governing labor relations, for use when contract disputes can’t be settled through negotiations. There were only 20 arbitration awards statewide in the 2012-2013 state budget year, and there have been only nine since April 1, according to PERB.

An award can only be for two years, so the parties now must try to reach another agreement for the period starting Jan. 1, 2012.

“They only have the ability to award two contract years, so we’ll be back to the table as soon as they’re ready to talk,” Hellwig said.

The award was made by a three-member arbitration panel. Two members represented the county and the union. The third member, and also the chairman, was PERB mediator Jay M. Siegel.

Each side submitted its position on issues like wages and health insurance costs. In their filings, county officials argued that the county couldn’t afford to give significant raises, given the financial pressures it was under.

In the ruling, Siegel said the 1 percent raise for 2010 and 1.5 percent for 2011 was fair, while having a “limited impact” on the county budget.

But Siegel also found it was unfair to the union to require employees to pay health insurance premiums for those years, though he indicated a settlement covering later years could revisit the issue.

The county has a current labor contract with the union representing corrections officers and civilian employees of the Sheriff’s Department. Its contract with its largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, expired Dec. 31, though the employees are still working under its provisions, as per state law.

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