By JOE LoTEMPLIO
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Clinton County and its largest union have reached a deal on a three-year contract.
Employees of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) will get raises of 1 percent, 1.25 percent and 1.5 percent for 2013, 2014 and 2015 respectively.
While employees will see more in their paychecks, they will also see a rise in their health-insurance-premium contribution of 2.5 percent over the final two years of the contract.
Employees with 10 years or less time in will be paying 22.5 percent of health-insurance costs; those with 11 to 15 years will contribute 17.5 percent, and those with 15 years or more time in will pay 12.5 percent.
Workers hired before 1980 will continue to make no health-care cost contribution.
‘DID WHAT THEY COULD’
The deal also calls for employees to work 15 years to qualify for retirement health insurance, instead of the previous 10 years.
“I give the union credit for this contract,” Legislature Chairman Jimmy Langley (R-Area 7, Peru) said.
“They want to keep the county as viable as possible, and they want to keep jobs, and they did what they could to help with that.”
‘DEAL MEETS NEEDS’
Union President Joseph Musso said the deal was approved by rank and file members by more than 100 votes. The union represents about 600 workers; he said about 71 percent participated in the vote.
“We thought it was important to keep the county economically solvent and allow them to maintain fiscal integrity,” Musso said.
“With the tax cap and everything the county is facing, we knew that was going to be important, and we didn’t want to hurt the citizens of the county.
“But at the same time, our members needed some kind of wage increase to keep up with the cost of living, and I think we met all those needs with this contract.”
DAME SAYS UNFAIR
The legislature approved the deal with an 8 to 2 vote on Dec. 31.
Mark Dame (R-Area 8, City and Town of Plattsburgh) and Sam Dyer (D-Area 3, Beekmantown) voted against it.
“I think the time has come for the public-sector employees to come more in line with the private sector,” said Dame, a business owner.
“The average taxpayer has not received wage and benefit increases that the public employees have in the past four or five years during the recession, so it is not right to ask the taxpayers to pay more than they are receiving.”
Dame said health-care costs have risen from about $15,000 for a family plan four years ago to about $21,000, and the county cannot continue to pay such amounts without help.
“This system is just no longer sustainable, and the taxpayers are the employer, and it is not right for the employer to be paying more than the employees,” he said.
“It’s not the taxpayers’ fault, and it is not the union’s fault. We have some great workers, but we just cannot afford this anymore.”
‘DOESN’T OPPOSE UNION’
Dyer said he has nothing against the union or its workers but does not like the fact that all employees do not pay the same for health insurance.
“I think the contract should treat everyone fairly, and everyone should pay the same,” he said.
Musso said the union is willing to sit down and work with the county on coming up with more affordable options for health insurance.
“We’ve done it before, and we will do it again,” he said.
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