Nope again to county employees' deal

By Jim Poole

The search for a contract between Schoharie County and its union employees continues. The Civil Service Employees Association Wednesday rejected a contract offer by 32 votes, 130 no to 98 yes, according to Rick Cain, CSEA president. The next step would likely be to resume negotiations, which started in 2015, according to county officials. The proposed contract called for a 4.25-percent raise this year, a 2.1-percent increase in 2020 and 2.25-percent hikes each year until 2023. Health insurance was the probable sticking point in the contract, Mr. Cain said. County negotiators want employees to move from their current New York State Health Insurance Program to CDPHP. CDPHP doesn’t pay out-of-network benefits, so if an employee needs insurance––on vacation, for instance––and is out of the CDPHP coverage area, the plan won’t pay, according to Mr. Cain. NYSHIP will pay a portion of out-of-network, up to 80 percent, Mr. Cain said. “A lot of members don’t want to give up NYSHIP,” he added. Going forward, the Board of Supervisors could approve legislation that takes 2017 out of the talks. In other words, if both sides agree to a new contract, retroactive raises wouldn’t apply to 2017, according to county Administrator Steve Wilson. Conesville Supervisor Bill Federice, chair of the Personnel Committee, said talks will continue––and maybe soon. “Speaking for myself, I want to get started,” Mr. Federice said. “There’s an advantage in that both sides know what’s important to the other.” But Mr. Cain suggested that talks may not fully resume until after November elections, when many town supervisors will run for office. If there’s no agreement when talks pick up, a negotiator would be assigned “to try to come up with a deal,” Mr. Wilson said. The next step might be to have a factfinder work with both sides to find middle ground. “We just have to keep up with this process,” Mr. Wilson said. The process has already been going on for four years, Mr. Cain noted. “We’ve been at this a long time,” he said. “It’s unfortunate there’s been no agreement the members could get behind.”

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