County and corrections officers union at stalemate in mediation

PLATTSBURGH A new contract for corrections officers, sergeants and lieutenants working at Clinton County Jail is still in limbo. CSEA labor relations specialist Emy L. Pombrio stated three mediation sessions held with a mediator assigned by the Public Employment Relations Board concluded April 23, with the parties still unable to reach an agreement. The mediation was pursued after the union declared an impasse in two months of negotiations Feb. 8. Both parties had been at the table since Dec. 13, and continued meeting following the expiration of the unions previous five-year contract Dec. 31. The county basically walked away from the table this afternoon, Pombrio said of the latest development in negotiations. Theyve basically taken the position that they dont have any more to offer in terms of a wage proposal. Wages, said Pombrio, are the main issue neither party can agree upon. The CSEA presented a study conducted by its research department that showed salaries for corrections officers at the jail, depending on rank, are 10 to 73 percent below average from 2006 for county jails of similar size across the state. The county provided salary data from 2007 showing the starting salary for corrections officers is approximately $5,000 behind where it should be, she said. In the last proposal we had, the county wouldnt have a starting [corrections officer] reach the statewide average until 2012, said Pombrio. And, thats if everything stays static with 2007 numbers. So, were way behind. When attempting to reach County Administrator Michael Zurlo, questions were referred to Alan Gibson, personnel director with the Clinton County Personnel Department. Gibson, who stated he has been involved with the mediation process, said though no settlement was reached through mediation, progress was being made. Given the large number of issues that the corrections officers brought for consideration, there was quite a bit of discussion and some progress made in defining the key issues, he said. There was some agreement on some issues; there was some advancement on some other issues, but still a large gap in what the corrections officers are or were asking for in a financial package, compensation, salary increase and what the county is able to offer. Gibson agreed the inability for either side to agree on the issue of salary increases was what ultimately led to the end of the mediation process. The negotiations process is now expected to follow Public Employment Relations Board impasse procedures, which involved conducting a fact-finding hearing. We were still at the table willing to work through issues and try to be fair, but they decided they couldnt possibly exceed their proposals, said Pombrio. When gas is $3.73 a gallon and fuel oil is $4 a gallon and youre not reaching the statewide average from 2007 numbers until 2012, its hard to see where were going to be able to close the gap.

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