Gloversville approves sick-time sharing to aid pregnant cops

PHOTOGRAPHER:
STAN HUDY/LEADER-HERALD Exterior photo of the Gloversville Police Department building at 3 Frontage Road in Gloversville. Aug. 1, 2021.

By JASON SUBIK

The Leader-Herald

The Gloversville Common Council recently approved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Gloversville Police Benevolent Association to allow its members to donate accrued sick time to two officers who need it for maternity leave.

Councilman-at-Large William Rowback Jr. introduced the resolution at the council’s Aug. 10 meeting, and it was unanimously approved by the council.

Rowback said in the past during his career as a city firefighter there were times when the city allowed sick time to be shared between members of the fire department’s union, and he knows it’s been done for the police union a few times in the past. He explained the need for the sharing of sick time.

“Right now, we’ve got two ladies that are pregnant that are going to be going out on maternity leave,” Rowback said. “This was brought to me. I had spoken to [Police] Chief Clay about it very briefly, and he asked me how I felt about it, and I said it would be a good idea to do something like this, because if they run out of time, then they’re off the books, and — if there are people who are willing to work together — I don’t see why not.”

In 2018, New York State’s Paid Family Leave law took effect. On January 1, 2021 the law’s final phase-in began providing up to 12 weeks of paid leave, but those who use it will not receive their full salary, but instead payments from a fund established by the state, paid for from statewide employee contributions. Users of New York state’s Paid Family Leave receive 67% of their current salary, capped at 67% of the current statewide average weekly wage of $1,450.17. The maximum weekly benefit for 2021 is $971.61.

The PBA sharing sick time, however, will enable the two pregnant officers to receive their full city salaries for a longer period of time.

City Commissioner of Finance Tammie Weiterschan said the council has approved allowing sick time to be shared by members of its collective bargaining agreements in the past, but each instance of sharing must be approved by a memorandum of agreement approved by the council, in this case encompassing two people instead of one.

“We’ve done it a couple of times, in cases of illness or a maternity leave or a paternity leave. I think the last time we did it was 2019,” she said. “Every once in a while a situation arises — it isn’t that often — but there’s a need, and the employees want to help their co-workers out.”

Weiterschan said under the current Gloversville PBA contract each month a Gloversville police officer works they accrue 12 hours of sick time, and over the course of their careers can bank up to approximately 1,300 hours, after which they must either use the sick time or stop accruing new sick time.

Weiterschan said police officers do not receive a cash payout for the accumulated sick time upon retirement unless they “opt-out” of continuing to receive their health insurance through the city. She said retired police officers who choose to continue to receive the city’s health insurance can use the cash value of their sick time to pay for their health insurance premium contributions after they retire, until the hours are exhausted.

“So, if the value of their sick time when they retire was say $2,000, the first $2,000 towards their contribution towards their health insurance that they continue with at the city would be paid by that sick bank.”

Weiterschan said a New York state law passed in 2020 mandated that anyone quarantined for COVID-19 would not be charged any sick time by their employer, so the pandemic has not impacted the accrued sick time of the police.

Gloversville’s last approved PBA contract ran from Jan. 1, 2014 through to Dec. 31, 2018, but has since expired. The Triborough Amendment to New York State’s Taylor Law, however, mandates the provisions of all public employee union contracts remain in place until a new labor contract is agreed to by both sides.

Rowback, who’s also the Republican Party candidate for city mayor in November, said he’s not a part of the city’s contract negotiations team for the police union contract, so he’s not sure why a new deal hasn’t been reached yet, but he thinks a new deal should be made by the end of 2021.

“Personally, I don’t think it should go this long,” he said. “If people can come to the table and ask within reason for what they’re asking for, and the city comes to the table with what they can possibly afford, and be upfront and honest — that’s where the respect comes from.”

Weiterschan said Gloversville’s police department currently has 35 officers that are a part of the PBA contract. She said the police chief is not covered by the contract and two administrative officers, one being the department’s animal control officer, are actually covered by the city’s CSEA union contract.

Weiterschan said she believes the PBA contract negotiations are going well, and a new deal may be reached before the end of the year.

“We were not at the table throughout the COVID-19 pandemic last year, because the union recognized that the city’s revenues were a little more unknown than usual because of COVID, so they said they’d step back and see what happens, but right now we’re at the table making very good progress.”

“We’re very hopeful we’ll come to an agreement by the end of the year,” Mayor Vince DeSantis said of the PBA negotiations.

By Paul Wager