Village, DPW ink contract

The village of Ballston Spa's Department of Public Works has successfully negotiated its first union contract with village officials.

Representatives on both sides of the bargaining table said the talks were amicable and productive. Union organization in the department began in 2006, and a preliminary meeting was held in December 2006. Both sides agreed to delay serious negotiations until six months into the celebration of the village's bicentennial year in 2007.

The village board formally recognized the union in December 2006, at which time union members agreed not to go on strike until terms were reached.

We could have refused and not recognized the teamsters, but that would have resulted in protracted litigation, said village Mayor John Romano. "They absolutely had the right to unionize."

In August, talks began in earnest, with a total of eight, two-hour sessions wrapping up the agreement. There are currently 10 DPW employees. The department supervisor, as a manager, is not a member of the union.

"These things can go on for years, but our discussions were cordial, professional, and not once did anything close to an argument break out," said Romano. "They were conducted with dignity and respect on both sides."

Key issues agreed upon included a staggered, department-wide pay hike of 3.5 percent starting June 1; another 3.5 percent for the year 2009-2010; and a 4 percent raise in 2010-2011. Longevity awards, which give employees cash bonuses based on years of service, originally offered in .5 cents per hour raises, will now be paid in lump sums of $600 to $1,200 per year, with the largest bonus for 20-year workers.

In other contract terms:

Overtime and special holiday pay rates were set equivalent to time and a half. This applies to employees clocking in outside regular hours and on weekends. Calls will be made for overtime based on seniority of workers, with those employed the longest by the department getting the right of first refusal for the extra hours.

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