PBA, city settle on contract

JOHNSTOWN — The Common Council recently approved part of a new two-year contract for the Johnstown Police Benevolent Association. The state arbitration process designated the final total award, which set annual 2 percent raises for police officers.

The council took action on some of the union contract at its May 20 meeting at City Hall.

The contract impacts most of the officers of the 24-member Johnstown Police Department.

City Treasurer Michael Gifford said Thursday that the council only approved part of the PBA Memorandum of Agreement, which is for the years 2017 and 2018. The city’s last contract with its police union expired Dec. 31, 2016.

Gifford said the council approved a “side agreement” related to the new contract pertaining to contract language specific to disability and direct deposit. He said the bulk of the MOA was actually recently handed down by a New York State Public Employment Relations Board Interest Arbitration Panel, as the result of a process.

“It was a long process,” Gifford said.

He said the new contract provides PBA members with a 1.5 percent wage hike for 2017, and 2 percent raise for 2018.

According to the award, the base wage schedule of Johnstown officers started in 2016 at $43,385 and wages went up to $54,931 after two years. Officers assigned to investigations had a $59,864 base wage, with sergeants at $61,512.

The new PBA contract also calls for increases in longevity.

Gifford said the new contract only runs through the end of 2018, so technically the process for the next contract should have begun last Jan. 1.

“We have to start bargaining [again],” the city treasurer said. “We’re behind.”

City labor attorney Elayne Gold of the Albany law firm of Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP said Thursday that the Interest Arbitration Award was issued by the panel about one month ago. She said the council voted on “some side agreements the parties entered into simultaneous with the award.”

PBA President Seth Mitchell said Thursday the contract award wasn’t totally to the union’s liking.

“Basically, it is what it is,” he said. “We’re satisfied the process is over.”

Mitchell said the union requested 3 to 3.5 percent raises and the city wanted zero percent raises, with the PERB panel coming down in the middle.

He said longevity increased by a flat $80 across all steps. He too said the “long process” now must be renewed soon, as the contract only runs through 2018.

“We’re still out of a new contract,” Mitchell said.

The Interest Arbitration Panel had been working for some time to resolve some of the issues preventing the new contract between the city and the PBA. Both sides in the city police negotiations had been at impasse since August 2017. The labor dispute eventually reached a final level involving PERB.

The prior union negotiations involving the Johnstown PBA also involved impasse. That PBA 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 then 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. Those three-year agreements run until Dec. 31.

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

By Patricia Older

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