Delayed negotiations frustrate Montgomery County union leader
MONTGOMERY COUNTY Labor contract negotiations in Montgomery County are running six months late, and union leader Eddie Russo is getting frustrated.
The Board of Supervisors went into executive session Monday morning to discuss collective bargaining, but Russo, president of the local Civil Service Employees Association unit, said talks are going very slowly.
The previous four-year contract expired at the end of December, and for months thereafter, very little was done to strike a new deal.
“We’re very late,” Russo said. “I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and we’ve always had a contract on time.”
He said a series of events conspired to hold up the talks. Then-Board Chairman Shayne Walters died in October, right about the time talks usually commence. Then, as Root town Supervisor John Thayer took over as chairman, things were postponed further.
Russo couldn’t comment on the exact items of discussion, but said raises and some health insurance issues are on the table.
“Basically, we’re discussing anything we want changed from the current contract,” he said,
St. Johnsville town Supervisor Dominick Stagliano, who is on the board’s Labor Committee, also refused detailed comment, but said raises are generally stumbling blocks in negotiations.
Late in the process, Russo said he’s starting to worry the county is stalling on purpose.
“At this point, either they are stalling until the elected executive takes over in January,” he said, “or they just don’t care to do anything.”
Stagliano, a Democrat who is running for executive, said he at least wants to get the raise negotiations resolved long before the new government takes over.
“We’re not trying to stall anything,” he said, pointing out such talks just naturally take a long time.
“There are four unions,” he said, listing the corrections, road patrol and corrections supervisor’s unions, along with the CSEA. “We have to talk with each of them, and all their contracts ran out at the same time.”
Even so, Russo said the long negotiations are hurting roughly 250 county employees. With no substitute, they’re still working under terms of the old contract.
“That’s fine,” he said. “It’s just there are no raises in there. The employees are eventually going to get grumpy if they don’t get any raises.”
At this point, Russo said he hopes to secure a retroactive payment arrangement in the new contract, with county employees getting a bonus check for raises delayed by stalled negotiations.
The next meeting is June 28.
Talks might be running late, but Stagliano said they’re not late in the grand scheme of things.
“At one point, it took Fulton County two years to figure out their contract,” he said. “Montgomery County might be later than it usually is this time around, but it’s not late when compared to other counties.”