Ballston, highway employees settle inaugural contract
BALLSTON The town of Ballston Highway Department employees have formed a union and negotiated their first labor contract, officials announced Thursday.
The three-year contract covers 2013, 2014, and 2015. Eleven employees who have organized through Teamsters Local 294 in Albany, are covered.
The agreement, which was negotiated over the past year, includes 2 percent annual raises and established the first employee contributions toward health insurance costs.
Deputy Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak said both sides were very professional in negotiating the contract.
“At no time did either party walk away from the bargaining table,” Szczepaniak said. “Negotiations were tense at times but issues were resolved through honest and open discussions.”
Szczepaniak said the town’s primary goal was to prevent having to re-establish a town highway tax, and the contract settlement achieves that goal.
Local 294 business agent Thomas Quakenbush, who helped organize the workers and negotiate the contract, also described the negotiating process as cordial.
The unionization of the highway employees is part of a trend Quakenbush said is being seen around the region, as workers become concerned about rising municipal insurance and pension costs being passed on to them.
“Everyone who comes to us is doing so because they want someone to represent them, otherwise they would each have to negotiate individually,” Quakenbush said.
In Ballston, highway department workers plow roads during the winter, build and maintain roads during the summer, and also handle water-main issues like water main breaks.
The care costs were a major issue. Until now, the town has paid 100 percent of those costs, and Szczepaniak said getting an employee contribution was one of the town’s goals.
Under the contract, new employees hired after Jan 1, 2013 will pay 25 percent of their monthly health insurance premium. Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2008 will pay 15 percent and those hired after Jan 1, 1998 will pay 5 percent, not to exceed $25 per bi-monthly pay period.
Retirees will also start paying toward their health insurance, with the amount depending on how long they worked for the town.
Highway department employees will receive a 2 percent raise for each contract year, with holidays, vacation time, sick-time policies all remaining unchanged.
“By all accounts, both sides sought to reach common ground to ensure that a contract that was fiscally responsible but fair to our highway team could be reached and supported by both sides,” said Town Supervisor Patrick Ziegler.