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Schenectady, CSEA tentatively agree on contract

Schenectady, CSEA tentatively agree on contract

CSEA members have finally agreed on a new contract with the city.

CSEA members have finally agreed on a new contract with the city.

The City Council has not yet voted on the deal, but the costs and savings it entails have been included in the proposed 2015 budget, Finance Commissioner Deborah DeGenova said.

She set aside a lump sum to be divvied out after contracts are approved and included health insurance changes in the insurance budget lines.

Although city officials would not give specific details about the raises or the length of the contract before the City Council votes on the contract next Monday, they said it would include no raises for 2013 and then raises of 1 to 2 percent for 2014 and upcoming years.

Typically, contracts also include “step” raises that are granted automatically each year, whether a contract has expired or not, and an additional raise for every year the contract is in force.

Schenectady city employees represented by the Civil Service Employees Association have been in negotiations with the city since at least 2013, with a main stumbling block being a change in health insurance. Union members voted to reject one contract proposal, and city officials offered some concessions in a compromise measure.

That included “adjusting” some employees’ salaries to bring them in line with other employees, Mayor Gary McCarthy said.

But on health care, the city got what it wanted.

Retirees would move to Medicare Advantage plans, which would save the city money. Current workers would move from a PPO (preferred provider organization) insurance plan to an EPO (exclusive provider organization) insurance plan that will also save money, said County Attorney Christopher Gardner, who helped the city negotiate with the CSEA.

That saved a “significant” amount of money, he said, adding that it is modeled on the contract he negotiated between the county and its employee unions.

Gardner and DeGenova couldn’t give exact figures, but Gardner said the savings would be in out-of-network costs.

“The PPO didn’t have any mechanisms to put any restraints on that,” Gardener said. “The EPO treats it more stringently.”

Patients can incur out-of-network costs without leaving the area, simply by being treated by a doctor who isn’t in their insurance plan. Gardner said the city sometimes had to pay “three or four times their regular rate” to doctors who weren’t members of the PPO plan.

The new plan would also encourage members to use Canadian prescription medications. They will have no co-pay if they buy through that program, and a very small co-pay if they choose to use mail-order prescriptions from the United States. If they buy from a local pharmacy, the co-pay is higher, Gardner said.

The city had offered that arrangement before, but had not “incentivized” it by changing the co-pays, Gardner said.

He helped negotiate that portion of the contract, for both the CSEA’s roughly 110 members and the much smaller city building trades unions, which have about 25 members combined, and also has voted to accept a new contract.

The council is expected to vote on it at the end of the month.

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