Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz announced the ratification of contracts with two employee unions representing the employees in the County's Holding Center and Correctional Facility recently. The agreements are with the CSEA Local 815 Erie County Corrections Officer ("CO") Unit representing employees in the Correctional Facility and Teamsters Local 264 representing employees in the Holding Center and Correctional Facility.
The County Executive stated that he will be transmitting the agreements to the Erie County Legislature for approval and he will seek an efficiency grant from the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority ("ECFSA") to pay for a portion of the agreements. Among the many cost-saving elements in the new contracts is the requirement that union members pay a percentage of their health care costs both while working and after retirement. Under the previous contracts, both unions enjoyed 100 percent County-funded health insurance for active employees and retirees.
"These contracts represent a new way of doing business for Erie County, and I want to thank the leadership of the CSEA Corrections Officer Unit and Teamsters for coming to the table and negotiating in a way that was fair to their members, fair to taxpayers, and understanding of the fiscal realities facing Erie County," Poloncarz said. "Providing 100 percent County-funded health insurance for employees and retirees places a huge strain on County finances and is unsustainable in the long run; these agreements will make it possible to control such costs in the future."
Poloncarz also noted that with the ongoing mandate from the New York State Commission of Correction requiring the County to add 72 new sworn personnel in the jails, the new contracts will require the new deputies and correction officers to pay for health insurance once they start employment. The contracts will also allow the County to better recruit nurses and medical staff for the County's Correctional Health Division, satisfying U.S. Department of Justice requirements for medical staffing.
The Teamsters, representing approximately 540 members and whose contract expired on Dec. 31, 2004, approved a pact requiring new hires (employees hired after contract ratification) to pay 10 percent of the Core Plan premium for health insurance, and all current Teamsters employees will pay 10 percent of the Core Plan premium beginning Jan. 1, 2014. Current employees that retire after Dec. 31, 2016 will pay 10 percent of their retiree premiums, while employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013 will not receive any County-paid health care upon retirement. The Teamsters have also agreed to the elimination of "summer hours," which were equivalent to three additional paid days off.
Other facets of the Teamsters agreement include Cost of Living Adjustments ("COLAs") of 2 percent in 2012-2014, and 3 percent in 2015-2016. Additionally, a modest payment of $300 for each year worked from 2005-2011 is also built in.
The CSEA Corrections Officers Unit, comprised of approximately 230 staff, and whose contract expired on Dec. 31, 2006, ratified an agreement requiring all current members to pay 15 percent of the Core Plan premium beginning Jan. 1, 2013. All new hires in the CO Unit will be enrolled in the less-expensive Value Plan and will pay 15 percent of that premium. Newly-hired CO's will also not receive County-paid health insurance upon retirement.
The new contract, which covers the years 2007-2017, does not have a retroactive pay component but all CSEA CO Unit members will move up one job group effective Jan. 1, 2013 and members will receive 2 percent COLAs in 2013-2017. The Unit also agreed to eliminate "summer hours" and the Columbus Day and Election Day paid holidays.
"The Commission of Correction has mandated that we fill 30 new positions in jail management in 2013, followed by 15 more positions in 2014," Poloncarz said. 'The cost of health insurance for these new positions was very concerning, and this agreement will ease the burden considerably. Now, not only will these new employees be paying a percentage of their health care from the day they start working, there will also be significant savings upon retirement. This will result in millions of dollars in savings over the next few years and more in the years to come."
The ratified contracts are the first approved this year by County employees, following earlier contract rejections by the CSEA white collar unit and the Erie County Sheriff Police Benevolent Association. The ratified contracts require approval from the Erie County Legislature prior to taking effect.