County approves 5-year labor contract with CSEA

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 August 2021 at 9:36 am

ALBION – The Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday approved a five-year contract with 170 employees in the CSEA union.

The agreement doesn’t give any raises for 2020 through June of 2021. However, the employees will all get 50-cent hourly raises effective June 1, 2021, and then a 4 percent increase on top of that for the rest of 2021.

The agreement then gives the workers 2 percent annual increases in 2022, 2023 and 2024.

The 50-cent hourly wage increase was implemented due to minimum wage being hiked up to $12.50 an hour. The county needed to increase starting hourly pay for custodians and housekeepers from $11.94 to $12.73 due to the state increase in the minimum. That also prompted the county to increase the other wages to stay more competitive in the local labor market.

The new contract was delayed with uncertainty during the Covid-19 pandemic. The county last year had 20 percent of state reimbursements withheld, and there were concerns over a loss of sales tax revenue.

The state cuts eventually were at 5 percent, the county ended the year with a big increase in sales tax last year –up by 9.2 percent, from $17.7 million in 2019 to $19.4 million in 2020. For part of the year, however, sales tax revenues were lagging when many businesses were forced to close for in-person customers.

The county also implemented a temporary voluntarily workforce reduction of 40 employees last year due to concerns about plummeting revenue.

All of those issues made it challenging to craft a long-term labor agreement, said Jack Welch, the county’s chief administrative officer. He remains concerned about revenue in the future from the state and federal governments, especially if the pandemic is drawn out.

The new contract increases the deductibles for employees from $1,500 for a single heath insurance plan to $2,500, and $3,000 for a family plan to $5,000.

However, there are health reimbursement accounts at $1,400 for employees with single plans (with the county also eligible to be reimbursed $1,100 for those plans) and $2,800 for employees with family plans (county eligible for up to $2,200). Those accounts have the potential to reduce out-of-pocket costs for employees and also drive down some of the county’s health insurance costs, Welch said.