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Orchard Park blue-collar workers now have a new contract, 3½ years after negotiations started.

“The negotiations started in January of 2010 and went a little longer than I expected,” Supervisor Janis Colarusso said.

Town Board members said different members were on the negotiating team for the town over the years. Since the Town Board now has three members, only one could be in the negotiating room at a time, because two would constitute a quorum and could be construed as the entire board.

“That, may I say, is one indication of why the downsizing of the Town Board was a decision that was done ... stupidly,” Colarusso said. “One member can sit in union negotiations, two members is a meeting, that is a joke, but that is something to talk about at a meeting in the future.”

The contract, which covers 31 employees in the Highway, Sewer and Lighting departments, requires new employees to pay 20 percent of their health insurance costs. Current employees will start contributing 5 percent. New employees also will receive less sick time, four weeks’ vacation at 20 years of service instead of five weeks and added steps in the pay scale before they reach top scale.

Negotiations were tense at times, Councilman Eugene Majchrzak said.

“There were times that we were at an impasse, and we left the table for a while,” he said, although neither side formally declared an impasse. “Both sides relooked at what we were offering and came back to the table.”

He said employees had to get used to things they had not done before, such as participating in health insurance costs and zero pay increases.

Union workers will receive a 3 percent pay raise in each of the first two years of the contract, no raise for two years and a raise of 2.75 percent in 2014.

The contract runs from Jan. 1, 2010, through Dec. 31, 2014.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com