LYONS — The after-effects of contentious contract negotiations between Wayne County and the union representing some 65 sheriff’s deputies could be seen at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, where the board unanimously approved a pact that provides deputies wage hikes of 14 percent over five years, including retroactive pay increases for 2016 and ‘17.
Deputies had been without a contract since the end of 2015.
Two supervisors on the county’s negotiating team who were the subject of attacks on social media and elsewhere expressed their displeasure with the tactics of Teamsters Local 118, which negotiated its first collective bargaining agreement for the deputies.
“I’ve never had to deal with the mudslinging and backdoor negotiations that went on here,” said Huron Supervisor Laurie Crane, who is stepping down at the end of the year and was one of three supervisors on the county negotiating team headed by attorney John Corcoran of Hancock Estabrook law firm in Syracuse.
“It was very disheartening to work with this (Teamsters) team,” Crane said.
Butler Supervisor Dave Spickerman, another member of the negotiating team, along with Palmyra’s Ken Miller, said “parts of these negotiations were very unprofessional” and that he and others on the team were “treated with disrespect.”
Spickerman emphasized that supervisors must balance the needs of both employees and the people who underwrite county government.
“This isn’t a business,” he said. “This is taxpayer money, and we have to be fair to everybody.”
County Administrator Rick House, a former 35-year member of the Sheriff’s Office, thinks deputies got a fair contract. He said the agreement calls for wage hikes of 2.5 percent for 2016 and ‘17, 1.5 percent for ‘18 and ‘19 and 3 percent for ‘20 and ‘21. There are additional wage increases for longer-tenured deputies as part of an effort to retain those employees.
House said the contract also calls for scheduling changes that Sheriff Barry Virts said will lower overtime costs. Road patrol hired after Jan. 1, 2018 will work five days a week, with eight-hour shifts, while those hired prior to that have the option of retaining their four-day, 10-hour workday.
Paul Markwitz, president of Teamsters Local 118, stood before supervisors and thanked them for unanimously supporting the pact. He noted the deputies are the first law enforcement unit they have represented.
Negotiations had stalled between the two parties earlier this year, and the county elected to go to arbitration, which Markwitz opposed. However, he said the two sides did not stop talking ahead of the arbitration proceedings.
“We kept the effort of dialogue and meaningful conversation going,” he said. “We didn’t need that third party (arbitration panel) to come up with that decision for us.”
And “despite what was going on,” Markwitz said, “they (deputies) did their jobs.”
Board of Supervisors Chairman Steve LeRoy said he has worked with Markwitz for years, as the Teamsters represent Sodus town highway workers. However, these negotiations were different.
“Things that were said, things that were done, were very hurtful,” he said. “That did not move this process at all. I think social media played a big part. It was disgusting.”
“They (the union and its supporters) went after them (Crane, Spickerman and Miller) personally,” House said.
LeRoy himself was criticized by Sheriff Barry Virts, a long-time friend, for not inviting him to an executive session held by supervisors on contract negotiations. As negotiations dragged on, Virts took a more forceful stance in urging supervisors to upgrade the pay of his deputies, which he said was not on par with comparable police agencies.
House called it a “good contract” but is hopeful the next go-round with the union is smoother.
“This was, if not the most contentious, definitely in the top two (of deputy contracts), and it was unfortunate,” he said.
CSEA contract approved as well
The Board of Supervisors also approved a five-year contract with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents about 500 county employees from public works to nursing to social services.
They will be getting raises of 2 percent for 2019 and 2.5 percent for the years 2020 to ‘23. They also are receiving a $600 taxable bonus that comes in part from negotiations that cap the amount of compensation time that can be banked, House said.