Saying they will not make any more concessions than they already have, three unions that represent workers in Sullivan County have teamed up to resist wage and benefit freezes instituted by the legislature for the fiscal year 2011.
The unions are: Teamster Local 445, which represents the bulk of the workers; International Laborers Local 17, which represents workers in the Department of Public Works; and the New York State Nurses Association, which represents county nurses.
At a news conference at the Blue Horizon Diner just outside of Monticello, the union representatives also said they are initiating an independent audit of county finances to determine the exact fiscal condition of the county.
Adrian Huff, secretary-treasurer with Local 445, said of the 2011 budget passed in December, “We believe there are a lot of things hidden in that budget or eliminated from that budget.”
Sandy Shaddock, business agent for Local 445, said that the unions are not included in the budget process, and that there are questions about mismanagement. She noted, for instance, the $1 million lost by the county because of improper oversight of a proposed windmill at Sullivan County Community College, which was never built.
Todd Diorio, business agent for Local 17, said that over the past year the workers in his union have already re-opened the contract twice, and in so doing saved the county about $1.5 million. The savings, he said, came at a cost to new hires, which would receive smaller salaries. He said he would not agree to open the contract again.
Along the same line, Huff said this past summer his membership was asked to make changes to the contract that would allow members to take part in early retirement incentive programs, which the union did. He said his members voted last year not to re-open the contract and they were not willing to do so this year.
In the meantime, lawmaker Leni Binder sent an email to county legislators and the media with a link to a New York Times story reporting that newly sworn- in Governor Andrew Cuomo will seek a one-year salary freeze of state employees this year. However, the bulk of state worker contracts expire on March 31, while the contracts of Sullivan County workers still have a couple of years to go.
Sullivan officials have said that if the unions are successful in attaining salary increases through the grievance process, there will be massive layoffs from the county workforce.
However, county manager David Fanslau said, “We have discussed some issues at length, and I am optimistic that an agreement with one or more unions could be reached, if discussions were to continue forthright.”