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County approves SEIU nursing home contract

At its meeting on Wednesday, May 28, the Schenectady County Legislature authorized a four-year agreement with the county's 180-member SEIU District Council 1199, which will provide 3 percent raises for employees and will allow the county to save considerably in health-care costs.

The new contract for Glendale Home employees covers Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2010. The costs of the raises are $330,000 for the first year; $334,900 for the second year; $350,097 for the third year; and $360,000 for the fourth year.

Along with the raises, the contract also provides for a 30-year longevity step.

County Attorney Chris Gardner said the county will also receive significant savings in the contract.

The proposed contract continues to break new ground with aggressive, innovative health-care initiatives, which save the county over $2,000 per employee each year in health-care costs and includes a complete overhaul of retiree health-care benefits, wrote Gardner in his recommendation to the Legislature.

The Legislature passed the contract unanimously.

Under the contract, new employees will sign up for a less expensive health plan and all employees will see an increase their physician co-pays from $10 to $15.

The county will also end dual coverage of spouses for health insurance and will offer bonus waivers to individuals who choose to be covered outside of the county plan.

The bonus waiver program has saved the county about $2 million since its inception in 2005.

The contract also overhauls benefits for retirees without sacrificing health care, said Gardner. The transfer of 120 retirees to appropriate Medicare Advantage programs will save the county nearly $230,000 annually.

In exchange, union members will receive new education benefits costing the county $55,000 annually. These benefits provide extensive training and education to employees, as well as retraining for employees subjected to state-mandated layoffs.

The contract also establishes a child-care fund, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, providing extensive child-care subsidies to members. This program also costs the county $55,000 annually.

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