OLEAN – Nearly 2½ years of negotiation with a city workers’ union led to a sea of neon green and pink shirts accompanied by signs calling for a new contract Tuesday night in the City Council Chambers as members of CSEA Local 805 look for what they call a fair contract.
Just over 890 days ago, the contract between the City of Olean and the Civil Service Employees Association unit expired, leaving 78 city employees working without a newly negotiated deal. Union members held a recent vote on the latest contract offer, resulting in a tie.
Without an agreement to pass, the members of the union decided not to sign the new deal, citing the need for a fair contract, negotiated in good faith, before they will come to an agreement.
“I believe the contract offered to the CSEA was fair and negotiated in good faith,” Mayor Linda Witte said. “The sticking point seems to be centered around new members having to pay 15 percent of their health care costs as opposed to the 12 percent current members would have to pay.”
Feelings are not the same on the other side of the negotiating table, according to Olean CSEA President Brad Camp.
“The city has a take-it-or-leave-it approach,” he said. “Over the past few years, our union has seen a 47 percent cut in staffing. That’s more than any of the other three (unions). Our wages are lower and we pay more for health care than the others as well.”
The union represents city employees in parks and recreation, streets, water and sewer, critical staffing at the Municipal Building and engineering, Camp said.
“Over two years have elapsed since our contract expired,” Camp said. “We have been trying to work this out for many months. The willingness to negotiate just isn’t there (from the city’s side). As we heard from the mayor, the offer isn’t going to change.”
City officials said there are no plans to re-enter negotiations with members of the union and that a mediator has been brought in. “I encourage the union to go back and revote,” Witte said. “We have offered a fair contract.”
Talks with the city’s Fire Department union have just started, according to Witte, and talks have been completed with the patrol and command bargaining units for the city police.