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County to vote on employee union contract

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    The Columbia County Board of Supervisors will vote on a four-year collective bargaining agreement with the United Public Service Employees Union at its meeting tonight.
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    C-GM File Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Murell said the county is excited to connect businesses to special financing options for renewable and high-efficiency energy projects through an Energize NY program, which the county joined in December. The Board of Supervisors passed a local law to join the program in November. The state amended the program to make it accessible for more businesses, forcing the county to pass its local law again Feb. 14.
June 12, 2018 11:31 pm Updated: June 12, 2018 11:35 pm

HUDSON — The Columbia County Board of Supervisors will vote tonight to approve a four-year collective bargaining agreement with its largest employee union.

The board of supervisors will consider a resolution at its full board meeting at 7 p.m. to accept the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with the United Public Service Employees Union — the largest and most diverse union the county deals with, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Murell said Tuesday. The previous contract started in 2014 and expired Dec. 31.

Both Murell and the union said the agreement is a good compromise with winners on both sides.

“We went into negotiations with around 30 proposals,” UPSEU Regional Director Kathy Wright-Muzio said. “Under the circumstances, with the 2-percent tax cap and all, we came out with a good contract, and we recommended ratification. The union ratified the contract with a landslide vote.”

The union approved the collective bargaining agreement with a 6 to 1 ratio, Wright-Muzio said.

“We covered a lot of the big issues such as pay raises and health care,” she added. “We got modest pay raises for all four years, but especially for the first year.”

The contract will provide, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018, steady pay raises through Dec. 31, 2021, with a 1.5 percent increase for 2018, 1 percent in 2019 and 2 percent in 2020 and 2021.

“We also got the county to agree to a specialty drug agreement,” Wright-Muzio said. “It will help to mitigate the cost of specialty drugs [used to treat complex chronic diseases], which are very expensive.”

The contract requires new employees pay a 20 percent premium co-share for health benefits across the board for both single and family plans, which will be phased in over several years.

“That is something good the county got,” Murell said.

Minor changes were made under the new contract to discretionary time off, which is similar to compensation time, for highway department employees, he said.

The county and the union started negotiating the terms of the agreement last summer.

“I think it is a fair contract for both the county and the employees,” Murell said. “This is the biggest and most diverse union we negotiate with, which makes it more challenging. It takes a good year to come up with a contract.”

The UPSEU represents highway department workers and other social services employees as well as probation and other types of employees.

“Everything we got in this contract was an enhancement to the last contract,” Wright-Muzio said. “There were no concessions made on benefits for current workers for the county.”

The board of supervisors is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight, 401 State St., Hudson.