Public Employment Relations Board releases fact-finder report

ALBANY Though recommendations have been made by a state fact-finder to help settle a contract dispute between a local union and Clinton County, a final determination has not been made. On Nov. 3, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board released the results of a report conducted by Donald Mesibov, a fact-finder designated by the PERB to assist the local Civil Service Employees Association union and the county in reaching a new contract agreement for corrections officers, sergeants and lieutenants working at Clinton County Jail. According to information provided by the PERB, unit employees reviewed the report recommendations Nov. 7 and accepted the report as favorable. However, the county has not officially accepted or rejected the recommendations at this point. CSEA labor relations specialist Emy Pombrio said the countys spokesperson has communicated the county is not supportive of the recommendations in their entirety due to economics. This is very disappointing in light of the county welcoming the involvement of a fact-finder at the beginning and refusing to accept his recommendations at the end, Pombrio stated. When reached for comment, Alan Gibson, personnel director with the Clinton County Personnel Department, stated the county legislature has not made a determination whether it will officially accept or reject the reports findings. The legislature is currently reviewing the recommendations Gibson called non-binding, before an official determination is made. The earliest regular meeting of the legislature at which the board could make a decision is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m. However, the board could call a special meeting prior to that date if warranted, Gibson said. If one or both parties reject the report, then its really back to negotiations, he said. In his report, Mesibov stated unit member salaries are not substantially out of alignment with comparable positions in comparable counties and to attempt to determine relevant comparisons to adjust salaries is not appropriate in the current economic climate. As a result, Mesibov recommended a 3 percent wage increase for each year of the agreement, which is lower than the original wage increases suggested by both the union and the county. The union had argued for an 8 percent raise per year, while the county had proposed a varied increase. The county proposal had been for 3 percent in 2008, 3.5 percent in 2009, 3 percent in 2010, 3.25 percent in 2011 and 3.5 percent in 2012. However, Mesibov further recommended an additional 1 percent in other wage adjustments for each year of the agreement. This is lower than many prevailing settlements and is designed to afford the employer a certain amount of protection against fall-out from the recent stock market plunge and housing crisis, Mesibov stated in the report. Also recommended in the report was no change in promotional differentials for the 2007-08 contract year and that corrections corporals, sergeants and lieutenants receive an additional $1,000 to their annual differentials not built into their salary schedules for the 2008-09 contract year. The unions proposals for the 2009-10 were recommended to be accepted increasing the promotional differentials by $1,500 and included in base salaries. However, Mesibov stated the employees will be settling for substantially less then they had been proposing overall. On the issue of premium for mandated overtime, Mesibov issued a recommendation against the unions suggestion the county pay doubletime for nonvoluntary overtime assignments the Union attributed to understaffing. In previous statements made by union representatives, the 2005 expansion of the jail has further led to serious understaffing at the facility, based on reports from the state Commission on Corrections. According to the Mesibov's report, the county has stated it has been increased staffing to meet state recommendations. The recommendations also included employee uniform allowances be increased to $1,000 annually, paid twice a year and treated as all other income. Also, first-year officers should be allowed to accrue vacation time but not be allowed to use it during the first year of employment, the report stated. The fact-finder further recommended no changes be made to the longevity, vacation leave, sick leave, health insurance buyout, and retirement buyout provisions of the contract as requested by the union. He also recommended against the county's request to liquidate two paid holidays and require 15 percent of the staff to work a rotating or floating shift. A proposal regarding discipline and discharge of a union employee was brought forth by the union, asking for employees with five years of service or more be given the option for arbitration if faced with discipline or dismissal while undergoing contract negotiations. However, Mesibov recommended there would be an arbitration option for employees with more than seven years service in the event the sheriff implements a disciplinary penalty more stringent than a hearing office. Mesibov ultimately recommended the agreement, if agreed upon, be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008. In a statement from unit president Terry Guynup, he said the report is what it is. We didnt get everything we wanted but we are supportive of the process and its product, stated Guynup. Mr. Mesibov worked hard to assist us in recommending the framework for a new labor agreement with the county. Mesibov was assigned to produce the report after three sessions with a mediator between the union and the county failed to produce a deal. 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. An impasse in the contract negotiations was officially declared in February. The complete PERB fact-finding report may be viewed on-line at www.perb.state.ny.us/factfind.asp and by clicking on the corresponding link.

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