PBA, city still with no deal

JOHNSTOWN — The city’s police union will enter its third year without a new contract, but a draft ruling could be completed by the end of January.

A neutral, state Interest Arbitration Panel has been working for months to resolve some of the issues preventing a new contract between the city and the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association. The city’s last contract with its police union expired Dec. 31, 2016.

City labor attorney Elayne Gold of the Albany law firm of Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP said Thursday that the panel has met and is drafting a preliminary award for review.

Gold said that preliminary document is “expected in mid-to-late January.” She said there is no hold up, per se, but with interest arbitration “there is much financial data and substantive data to digest.”

Johnstown police Officer Seth Mitchell, PBA president, didn’t return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

Both sides in the police negotiations have been at impasse since August 2017. But the labor dispute has now reached a final level involving the New York State Public Employment Relations Board, which Gold said is usually expected to be a more speedy process that the court system.

Eventually, she said the Interest Arbitration Panel will conduct one or more closed-door, executive sessions and a final PBA award will ultimately be issued.

Police labor negotiations involving the city have typically taken longer than other negotiations in recent years.

The last union negotiations involving the Johnstown PBA also involved impasse. That PBA retroactive contract was ratified by the Common Council in July 2013. The union, at that time, received 2.7 percent average annual pay raises through 2016. Both sides ended up agreeing with the help of a PERB-assigned mediator in December 2012.

City government in 2017 resolved its two other, most-recent union contracts. They involved Johnstown Fire Firefighters Association Local 779; and CSEA, AFSCME Local 1000, employees of the city’s Department of Public Works and Water Department.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected].

By Josh Bovee

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