MAYVILLE Proposals made in a letter by the CSEA to county officials could add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the County Home.
County legislators may not be privy to information regarding CSEA negotiations, but they did receive a letter regarding the union's proposals for the County Home. An abbreviated version of the letter was read during Wednesday's legislature meeting. Due to the Taylor Law, Steve Abdella, county attorney, advised legislators not to speak publicly about the union's proposals.
The OBSERVER obtained a copy of the six-page letter, which was addressed from the CSEA Western Region Office to Joseph Porpiglia, county director of human resources. Additionally, it obtained a separate 11-page document of proposed changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Proposed changes could stretch upward of $400,000 in annual savings.
"The county executive has instructed CSEA by letter dated Nov. 28, to submit proposals to the County negotiating team concerning any changes CSEA is willing to make concerning work rules, pay and benefits to keep the County Nursing Home economically viable," the letter states.
Additionally in the November letter from County Executive Greg Edwards, it was asked that CSEA make recommendations to increase the home's revenue. For this request, CSEA chose to defer to an August 2012 report issued by the Center for Governmental Research.
"CSEA has studied that report and whole-heartedly supports the recommendations for revenue enhancements stated therein," the letter states.
The letter, which was signed by Penny Gleason, CSEA labor relations specialist, goes on to ask that Porpiglia accept the correspondence as an explanation of the proposals the union has prepared prior to entering into negotiations with the county.
Several proposals are made in the letter, including proposals regarding wages, pay increments, longevity with the county, substitute employees, health insurance, sick leave, holidays, uniform allowance and overtime.
"All provisions of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement would still apply to employees of the Chautauqua County Nursing Home," the proposal states. "Where provisions of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement are modified to apply to nursing home employees only, these provisions shall be stated at Article 18 Special Provisions for County Home and shall not affect any other employees covered by this agreement."
The first proposal suggests a wage freeze for all four years of the contract. The CSEA calculated the average salary of County Home employees to be $36,613 per year. The Center for Governmental Research stated that payroll, which excludes overtime pay, is $6.9 million per year.
The letter also proposes to stop increases, which are given to eligible employees from the date of ratification to the end of the contract.
"Based on information provided to the CSEA by the county of 187 eligible employees 127 employees have reached or should have reached step 9 of the salary schedule and would therefore be ineligible for any additional increases," the letter states.
For the 70 employees still moving through the salary schedule, no increments would be awarded if the union and the county come to an agreement. According to CSEA calculations, this would result in a savings of $76,887 per year in each of the contract's three years.
An employee receives an additional $40 for each year of service after 10. So, the CSEA also proposes a freeze on the increases in longevity to which employees would be eligible to receive based on increased years of service for the duration of the contract. The CSEA calculates by freezing the longevity increases, $3,840 per year would be saved in each of the contract's three years.
It also proposes a lower longevity rate for employees who are hired on or after the ratification of the agreement.
The Center for Governmental Research report reports that there are 233 full-time equivalent positions at the County Home, with 92 substitute employees.
"Most substitutes are paid at step 3 of the salary schedule for the grade in which their title is placed. However, 17 of the 92 are paid above that step 3 rate," the letter sates.
In this case, CSEA proposes that all substitute employees be placed at the first step of the salary schedule for their title. By doing this, a total savings of $148,890 could be recognized, according to the CSEA.
The letter also makes suppositions regarding employee health insurance. It estimates that 151 of the County Home's 187 employees are enrolled in the county health insurance program. The letter estimates that for each employee who enrolls in the High Deductible Plan rather than the Preferred Provider Network, there would be savings. The letter assumes 20 percent of the County Home Employees would enroll in the High Deductible plan, which would save a total of $80,040.
"CSEA believes these are conservative figures, given the county's marketing ability and the educational information that will be given to employees," the letter states.
Several proposals have also been made regarding sick time for employees of the county home. One proposal eliminates the sick leave bonus, which the CSEA said will be a savings of $15,065 to the county.
The letter also proposes that, in order to stop employees from extending a holiday by using sick time, that they must work the day before and following a scheduled holiday, or not receive holiday pay. It also proposes forming a sick leave use committee to help lessen sick leave use.
Another proposal, which the CSEA said will result in savings of $52,678, is to eliminate Good Friday and Election Day as holidays. Eliminating uniform allowances, which is paid to employees in the Nursing Department, would result in saving $29,500 annually, the letter states. And, the letter proposes that employees be allowed to contribute to the Chautauqua County Home Fund through payroll deduction.
Paul Wendel, R-Lakewood, asked during Wednesday's legislature meeting why legislators received a copy of the proposal, when they are unable to discuss it.
"If this is going to be presented as to our knowledge or understanding of the contract, why are we given a portion of that contract?" Wendel asked. "This is pertaining to County Home employees."
Despite questions by Wendel and other legislators, Abdella repeatedly cited the Taylor Law during the meeting in an attempt to explain why the negotiations should not be discussed.
"The county could be viewed as having had an improper practice and not negotiating in good faith, because it permitted the legislative body to involve itself in negotiations and completely muddy the waters as far as the negotiation process," Abdella said.
Abdella assured legislators that the county is in a fact-finding stage in the negotiation process. The county executive will continue to work with CSEA officials, but legislators have no part in the negotiation unless negotiations reach impasse.