Last union under contract in city

It took seven years, but the United Steel Workers Local 2693 and the city of Dunkirk have finally reached an agreement.

“I’m here to commend Mayor Rosas and Human Resources (Assistant) Vicki Westling and the council, especially Don Williams and Marty Bamonto and the membership of Local 2693 who work here at city hall,” Local Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (S.O.A.R.) President James Bickhart said.

“I understand that the contract was ratified by the membership and it’s coming to vote for ratification at the council meeting. It’s been seven long years of back and forth and, like I said, there were a lot of people involved in it and put a lot of extra effort into it and I really thank those people on behalf of John Taddio, president of our local union, and everyone else,” Bickhart added.

Dunkirk’s Common Council entered into a half hour-long executive session prior to Tuesday’s meeting to discuss contract negotiations.

Cosponsors First Ward Councilman Don Williams Jr. and Second Ward Councilman Marty Bamonto said they support the contract, calling it good for both members and taxpayers.

One official “could not in good conscious” vote for the agreement.

“For me tonight, unfortunately, I will be voting no. It shouldn’t be a surprise to many people in this room. … Of the four unions the city does have, only two of those unions currently have its employees participating in insurance payments. … I was very excited when the mayor called me and told me we had it ratified and we were getting an agreement sent to the house. Every single point you negotiated I was OK with — I want everybody to know this isn’t about anybody’s job performance, this isn’t about anybody particularly — until I got to the last point on that negotiation list that there would be no insurance paid by the current employees. So, tonight my vote is no,” Fourth Ward Councilwoman Stacy Szukala said.

Third Ward Councilman Adelino Gonzalez and Councilman-at-Large Andy Woloszyn said they both shared Szukala’s concern, but Woloszyn said because of the low cost of the contract he was in favor and will look toward changing insurance contributions in future contracts.

Resolution 114 passed with Szukala casting the sole no vote.

Mayor Willie Rosas said he is proud to have accomplished this goal.

“This is a very, very fair contract for both the city as well as the union members. We did work very long and hard on this, we worked with some of the regional representatives. I’m very proud because now we have all of our city union workers under contract. That was important to me to get this done. This, again, was a lot of hard work and I would like to commend all of my staff members that were involved in helping me in one way or another, especially Vicki Westling,” he said.

He added this contract begins to address one of Szukala’s concerns.

“Currently the employees who come into that union only pay for insurance for the first five years of employment. After that, they don’t pay. What we did is we negotiated with them and from here on in any new employees coming in will pay into the insurance … 10 percent,” he explained.

Local 2693 has eight full-time members and is the last union in the city to negotiate a contract. Rosas said the 10-year contract also includes zero percent pay increases in years one through five, a 2.5 percent pay increase in 2017 effective Dec. 5, a 1.5 percent increase in 2018 and a 1 percent increase in last two years as well as a 3-percent signing bonus.

The other two unions that contribute to health insurance are the Dunkirk Police Benevolent Association and the Firefighters Local 616. AFL-CIO Local 912’s contract has employees contribute for the first five years only. USW Local 2693 current employees are grandfathered in and do not contribute to insurance under the approved contract.

Council also approved resolutions 115 (budget modifications), 116 (agreement for drug/alcohol testing) and 117 (grant application for Restore NY funds for 23-25 Lake Shore Drive East). A notice of claim from Bonnie Orchard for alleged injuries from a fall on the sidewalk was referred to the legal department.