GLENVILLE -- The Town Board and town Highway Department employees have approved a new five-year labor contract that includes raises, but also savings.
The contract will run from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2023. It covers 21 people in the CSEA Highway Department bargaining unit.
The agreement will provide 2 percent raises in each of the first four years, and a 2.25 percent raise in 2023. The employees agreed to pay more for health insurance coverage and to adjust their work schedules to increase summertime availability.
The bargaining unit approved the agreement late last week, and the Town Board unanimously approved it Wednesday night.
Both sides said they're proud an agreement was reached before the expiration of the previous contract, on Dec. 31 -- an unusual occurrence in municipal labor negotiations.
"We were agreeable to the contract raises and length of contract in order to get operational efficiencies and health insurance savings," said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.
"It was a good collective effort, and I think it serves the town well and the employees well," said Bob Kirkham, president of the CSEA local representing highway workers.
Under the new contract, longtime employees who now pay either 5 percent or 10 percent of their health insurance premiums will see that increase 1 percentage point each year until it reaches 15 percent. Employees hired since 2010 already pay 15 percent of their health insurance premiums.
Employees now pay varying amounts for dental and vision coverage, depending on when they were hired, but by 2023, all will pay 20 percent of their premiums for those coverage plans.
"I've often pointed out in the past that our biggest growth area in the budget is health insurance, so their being willing to help with that is very helpful to the taxpayer," Koetzle said. "I appreciate the union meeting us half way on mitigating the cost of health insurance."
Koetzle said the town also got operational changes it was seeking. Employees now work four 10-hour days from May to October -- Monday through Thursday. Under the new contract, the four-day week will remain, but some employees will work Tuesday to Friday during that period.
"Now, we will have coverage every day the town is open," Koetze said. On days the town is closed, workers are called in on overtime if there's an emergency to deal with.
The town will also be able to use non-bargaining unit labor when a minimum number of CSEA members are not available. The maximum amount of compensation time will be capped at 160 hours, and comp hours in excess of 80 hours will need to be cashed out annually, Koetzle said. There are also limits on how much vacation time can be taken during specific times of the year.
"That allows us to limit the amount of time employees have off in the summer, and that helps us with scheduling," Koetzle said.
He said the department's summer workload, including mowing, parks maintenance, tree trimming, paving and drainage maintenance, has been increasing.
The contract with the CSEA unit covering sewer and water employees and town hall workers expired on Dec. 31.
"I'm very optimistic we can reach an agreement fairly quickly," Koetzle said of those contracts.
The town already has a labor agreement, approved last year, with the union that covers police officers.