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Stalemate continues between union, county

PLATTSBURGH Corrections officers, sergeants and lieutenants working at Clinton County Jail continue to express their disheartenment with the lack of a contract. The workers, represented by the Civil Service Employees Association union, protested outside the Clinton County Government Center prior to the county legislature meeting June 11. The protest came on the heels of the most recent development in the negotiations process, when a fact-finder was appointed by the Public Employment Relations Board after the union declared an impasse in negotiations in February. The impasse was declared following three mediation sessions held with a mediator assigned by the PERB, which concluded April 23, with both parties still unable to reach an agreement. The mediation sessions and impasse process were both results of two months of failed negotiations with the county, which continued through the expiration of the unions previous five-year contract Dec. 31. The main sticking point in the negotiations process is wages, said local union representative Terry Guinup. Guinup, a 13-year employee of the jail who serves as a lieutenant, said he and his fellow workers were particularly irritated with the approval of a 30 percent pay increase for Sheriff David N. Favro in the 2008-09 county budget. That raise, he said, was approved while the county only offered employees wage increases of 1.5 percent per year in a five-year deal. When it was our turn to get a raise, the legislators turned their backs on us, said Guinup. Were the ones doing the day-to-day work, were the ones putting up with the inmates, taking care of business and we dont get respect. The 2005 expansion of the jail was expected to mean an increase in compensation congruent with the increase in the workload, said Guinup, though that hasnt come to fruition. When we had a small jail, we didnt expect a whole lot, because we were at average with Essex County and Franklin County, said Guinup. Now that we built a 300-bed facility, we want to be compared with a 300-bed facility. They tripled our workload, but they dont want to give us the pay to equal it. We dont have enough staff, were overworked, were underpaid, he added Were just not going to put up with it anymore. Weve supported the sheriff, but our guys werent even offered a raise that would bring them up to the level that other corrections officers receive in surrounding counties. We think thats unacceptable, said CSEA Capital Region president Kathy Garrison. Were not asking for anything other than what these people deserve. When reached for comment, county administrator Michael E. Zurlo said the negotiations process hasnt changed since the impasse was declared. The county legislature, whether the union perceives it or not, does desire to provide a fair contract. What we need to agree on is a definition of fair, said Zurlo. At this point, their definition of fair is unrealistic.

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