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Givebacks Sought From Workers at Erie County, NY Jail

Givebacks Sought From Workers at Erie County, NY Jail

Matthew Spina | The Buffalo News via YellowBrix

September 22, 2009

The terms of a proposed contract between Erie County and the union that represents jail personnel at the Holding Center call for the workers to contribute to their health insurance, especially in retirement, and surrender some paid time off.

In return, they would receive a lump sum payment that county officials say will average $4,000 a worker, plus a more generous pay scale and six raises of 3 percent a year starting Jan. 1.

The pact will be voted on later this week by Teamsters Local 264, which represents about 100 civilian employees at the jail and 400 sworn jail deputies.

County Executive Chris Collins sees the terms as a model for what he wants to do with all of the government’s unions — provide raises in exchange for long-term concessions, especially on retiree health care.

“It respects future generations,” he said. “It ends the days of these legacy costs accruing to our kids with no way to pay for it.”

A study by the University at Buffalo concluded that Erie County’s price tag for retiree health insurance — $17 million last year and $18 million this year — will triple over the next decade.

So far, Collins has one contract in place. It was approved in January by a unit of the New York State Nurses Association, most of whom work for Erie County Medical Center.

That pact ended the county’s fully paid retiree health insurance for newly hired nurses. Current nurses are to pay 50 percent of their health care costs in retirement, although nurses who retire within the next five years are exempt from the provision.

The bonuses that went to the nurses and some initial costs of the contract were covered by Erie County’s state-appointed control board, which can dole out several million dollars to promote government efficiency.

Collins said he expects the control board also to cover the roughly $2 million in Teamsters bonuses that would address the five years they went without a contract.

While the Teamsters have been without a contract, some Holding Center deputies are among the county’s highest paid employees because of overtime.

Collins and the largest union representing Erie County employees, Local 815 of the Civil Service Employees Association, are at an impasse. The CSEA rallied on the steps of the Rath County Office Building last week to decry his effort to retake some benefits.

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