The Putnam Examiner

After Three Years of Negotiations, County & CSEA Reach Agreement

We are part of The Trust Project

Putnam County government and employees have settled on a new CSEA agreement, pending approval of the full County Legislature next month.

The county’s Personnel Committee unanimously approved the ratification of the six-year contract, which spans from 2017 to 2022, at its Feb. 11 meeting, moving it forward to the full Legislature. The prior agreement expired in 2016.

“It’s a very fair and equitable contract,” said Legislator Ginny Nacerino, R-Patterson, chairwoman of the county’s Personnel Committee.

Under the new contract, employees will receive a 1.25 percent salary increase for 2017 and a 1.5 percent increase for 2018, with no retroactive payments for those years. They will receive a 1.75 percent increase for 2019, with retroactive payment.

In lieu of retroactive payment for 2017 and 2018, there will be a $1,500 signing bonus for employees hired prior to 2017, and $500 for those  hired after 2018.

In 2020, 2021 and 2022, each step will see a salary increase of 2 percent.

County Attorney Jennifer Bumgarner pointed out that the approval of the contract requires no budgetary amendment, because the finance department has been anticipating and planning for the salary increases throughout negotiations.

According to Personnel Director Paul Eldridge, one of the biggest obstacles for both parties during negotiations was incorporating 911 dispatchers who wanted to be covered under the Civil Service Employees Association contract, instead of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Employee Association contract.

“As a result of that, a lot of the time that was spent in this process was incorporating a 24/7, 365  operation into an agreement that didn’t have any others that operated like that,” said Eldridge.

He explained that dispatchers did not automatically get everything that was in the CSEA agreement. “The reality is that you have to actually negotiate everything,” he said.

Eldridge also noted that only the dispatchers at the county 911 center, which fall under the supervision of the county’s Bureau of Emergency Services, are covered under the new CSEA contract. Sheriff’s dispatchers, which are under the supervision of the sheriff, are still under the Putnam County Sheriff’s Employee Association.

Bumgarner also noted an important point in the new memorandum of agreement: “Probably the most important thing that we should point out, which was very important to the union and is something that wound up in the agreement, was the fact that all existing 911 employees will be covered by the longevity agreement in the CSEA agreement,” she said.

“One of the major issues that we faced was longevity,” added Eldridge.

He explained that the original contract approved by the county Board of Supervisors prior to the state’s 1967 Taylor Law implemented a 5 percent salary increase for employees after 10 years, then again after every five years.

“It’s always been a very, very difficult thing for us because there is no cap on it,” said Eldridge, who noted that there are many employees with decades of service to the county under their belts – and even one with 50 years.

The new agreement rolls back the salary increase for current employees after 25 years from 5 percent to 3 percent, with a cap at 35 years. For new employees, it’s a flat dollar amount capped at $3,500 after 30 years.

Nacerino said she’s happy to see this item addressed in the contract.

“As we evolve and change with our contracts, we have to look forward, and still honor the existing employees, which was what was demonstrated here with longevity,” she said. “So that’s a very important point, but it’s just not sustainable to keep going down the path we (were). And that’s commonplace with contracts.”

Other items addressed in the contract include meal compensation for “highway blue collar” employees; if an employee uses sick time after the earning of overtime, it could affect their overtime; direct deposit for all employees; the incorporation of a domestic partner for bereavement and family illness leave; as well as a number of policies related to IT, vehicle, safety and health, and more.

Janet Canaday, president of CSEA Unit 8150 in Putnam County, thanked the Personnel Committee for moving the new contract to the full Legislature for approval. “I am very happy that the county and the CSEA have come to this agreement,” she said. “This has been a long time coming.”

Canady explained that on Feb. 6, the agreement was also approved by Unit 8150 members, with 256 voting “yes” and 42 voting “no.”

Legislator Paul Jonke, R-Brewster, congratulated all parties for reaching an agreement.

“I give you a lot of credit for getting out from under the schedule of longevity,” he told Eldridge. “It’s not going to penalize those that are entitled now, and it will set a different bar for new employees, and I think it’s a great thing and I think you guys did a great job on this.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.