Monticello, NY – Despite two years of good-faith efforts, Sullivan County and the union which represents nearly half its workforce, Teamsters Local 445, have been unable to come to an agreement on a labor contract. As a result, the NYS Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has begun the fact-finding process, whereby an independent analysis of the situation is being conducted, with recommendations to be made to the County and the union.
County Manager Josh Potosek today sent a letter to all 516 Teamsters employees, outlining the most recent offer that was rejected by Teamsters negotiators.
“It’s critical for the County’s workforce to be aware of the significant offer legislators authorized my office to make,” Potosek explained. “It’s also important for them to understand how hard we worked to make this deal happen, and that I share their frustration at the lack of an agreement to date.”
The offer, made in December and supported by all nine legislators, would have given every Teamsters member at least a $3,000 increase to their base pay, if not more, and 122 positions would have received a 5% raise on top of that. Adding in a number of concessions, the County’s offer would have required the appropriation of $1.6 million more in the County budget.
In return, the County asked for one concession: that Teamsters members hired by the County after January 1, 2019 enroll in the New York State Health Insurance Program’s (NYSHIP’s) Excelsior Plan and contribute 20% toward the annual premium. (Such an arrangement already exists for a number of other County employees.)
Even before this offer, the Legislature had passed several resolutions to address union concerns – including the concern that some County employees are not making a living wage. In 2017, notwithstanding the contract in force at the time, legislators agreed to increase salaries of positions in Planning, Addiction Services, and Nursing, along with raising the minimum wage of all County employees to $15 an hour by the end of 2019 (well above the $12.50 target the State has set for upstate New York).
In 2018, legislators modified rules for Caseworkers, allowing new hires to bypass the two-year employment requirement before earning their full salaries. Instead of starting at $38,123 and waiting two years to make $40,129, Caseworkers now reach that full salary in six months.
The sum of these initiatives means the average Teamsters member’s annual salary in County government would rise from $37,000 to just over $40,000.
The Teamsters contract expired on December 31, 2017, but negotiations began in April of 2017. The County and union negotiators have conferred repeatedly to reach agreement, yet even with outside mediation, consensus has not been forthcoming.
“We are awaiting the fact-finder’s report and recommendations, after which the Legislature will be empowered to determine how to proceed,” Potosek explained. “I’m hoping the negotiating teams can come to terms before that becomes necessary, but the County has gone as far is it can whilst remaining fiscally prudent and responsible to the taxpayers. Any higher offer will force us to raise taxes beyond the 2% State-mandated cap. It’s up to the Teamsters representatives to give their members what they deserve: a fair contract.”