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Hamburg village public works employees agreed to some big concessions in a five-year contract that tries to reign in legacy costs to the village.

“There are some major things that will set us up long-term,” Village Administrator Donald Witkowski said at Monday night’s Village Board meeting. The board unanimously approved the contract.

The agreement reduces the top pay for new employees by up to 17 percent, and they must pay 100 percent of their health insurance after they retire.

The village still will provide free health insurance for existing employees who retire before June 1, 2018. But starting after that, existing workers must pay the same percentage of their health insurance that they were paying when they were employed.

The added language on health benefits may provide an incentive for existing employees to retire in the next five years, and the village would then hire lower-paid workers.

“That will hopefully spark some turnover if they want their health insurance,” Witkowski said.

The contract with Civil Service Employees Association, Local 1000 AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Hamburg Public Works unit of Local 815, runs from June 1 through May 31, 2018.

It cuts the top step for laborer/refuse collectors from $24.36 to $20, and from $24.64 to $22 for those with a commercial driver’s license, and increases the number of steps, or years of service required to reach top pay, from five to seven.

The contract also increases pay 2.6 percent in the first year, and 2 percent for the each of the following four years.

Personal days for new employees are reduced from five to three per year, and their vacation is reduced by two weeks, and capped at three weeks until 25 years of service, when they will receive an additional week.

The contract also includes changes to the clothing and shoe allowance to benefit employees, increases the value of sick days contributed by employees from 40 percent to 50 percent and creates family sick leave and restricted duty policies.

The 20 members of the union, which include 19 in the Public Works Department and one in the Recreation Department, ratified the agreement last week. Witkowski said he did not know the vote total, but was told it was not unanimous.

“They said they were going to have a hard time selling it. There are a lot of concessions,” he said.

But the village was adamant in negotiations that costs for sanitation had to come down to be competitive with a private operator.

“What they’re looking at is stability,” Witkowski said of employees. “They want to keep everybody working and they want to keep as much work as possible.”

The final piece of the agreement came in the hiring of a new worker, which the board put off until after the new contract was approved. The refuse collector/laborer is the first new employee to experience the lower pay and reduced benefits.

Also Monday night, Public Works Director Marc Shuttleworth said paving of Prospect Avenue between Buffalo and Lake streets is to begin Wednesday.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com