COLONIE — The town and one of its largest unions settled a five-year contract that gives raises through 2025 and is retroactive to 2021.
The deal with CSEA Unit B will give its some 120 members a 2 percent raise in 2021 and this year, a 2.5 percent bump in 2023 and 2024 and a 2.75 percent raise in 2025.
Health care benefits, always a sticking point with many municipalities asking employees to pay more, will remain the same, said CSEA Unit B President Bill Alund, who represents workers in the Department of Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Latham Water, Office of General Services and Pure Waters departments.
“These negotiations were never something I never encountered before. You go in expecting a battle and that wasn’t it was this time,” Alund said of his talks with Supervisor Peter Crummey. “There were different circumstances. We were coming off COVID and guys were tired of seeing zeros. Zeros were not negotiable. Let’s face it, everything is costing more.”
Crummey said CSEA Unit B is the last group of the town’s handful of unions that represent the some 600 employees to reach a deal and the big ticket items, salary and health care, follow the same basic formula. The police contract, though, is only for four years and expires at the end of 2024.
“It’s was a great opportunity to galvanize labor and management,” Crummey said. “Now we can get everyone moving forward with a game plan. I am very happy about it.”
There are specifics that are unique to each bargaining unit. For example, Alund said, his workers had gotten $250 a year earmarked for safety boots but under the new deal that money can be used for a safety jacket. Also, there was a boost for employees working out of title. If a worker has to head up a crew on a particular job — if a water main breaks, for example — they will get 15 percent increase in pay rather than 5 percent and the pay is used in compensation time rather than cash.
“When you have happy employees things get done,” said Alund, who has been union president for five years and vice president for two before that. “We are having a difficult time getting employees just like everyone else and when people come to work here they know they have a good package. We didn’t want to break the bank but we wanted to get some things and we did.”
The only outstanding contract is with the Emergency Medical Technicians, but Crummey said that it is penned and sent to the printer just not finalized with a vote and an official signing. That contract includes up to $3,000 of bonuses provided by the federal government for first responders who worked through COVID.
The vast majority of town employees are unionized. In the last weeks of the administration of Supervisor Paula Mahan a new union, the Colonie Professional Employees Alliance, was created to include 20 positions that formerly served at the pleasure of the supervisor including the EMS chief and deputy chief, director of Management Information Services, general services director, library director and the sewer and water district superintendents. The only employees who are not in the union, Crummey said, are the town attorneys and a handful who work in his office.