Chris Collins on Union Negotiations

31 Dec

I know it seems like it’s all Chris Collins, all the time here at BuffaloGeek, but this is one of the final installments in our interview with the new Erie County Executive.  In this segment, Collins discusses his approach to negotiating with the public sector labor unions.   As we enter 2008, the contracts for the three major public sector unions at the county level have expired.  It’s time to renegotiate, well, in as much as the Taylor Law allows for renegotiation.

Collins’ approach appears to be firm; without a renegotiation of all contract terms, there will be no pay raises for county employees and they are free to continue working under their current and expired deals.  While this seems like a hard line, it also seems exceptionally fair.  Collins has identified the only leverage point that he has (raises) and will use it to reduce overall contract costs.

His administration will conduct a comparison of private sector benefit packages with public sector packages, define the delta between the two, and work towards compromise on give and take.  Any savings realized as a result of the new contracts will be split 50/50 between the public employees (in the form of pay raises) and the taxpayers.  Getting public sector contracts more inline with those normally found in the private sector is one of the primary reasons that Collins was elected, I don’t believe he will capitulate on this issue.

The problem in past negotiations has been that the county approached the unions with a single cost saving in mind and primarily worked on one issue.  This is not the way to negotiate anything, especially a union contract protected by the Taylor Law.  If the new administration intends to negotiate in good faith and evaluate all aspects of the existing contracts, cost savings are in the offing.  Offering cash incentives to reduce certain expensive parts of the benefit package while offering other inducements like professional training, certification, will result in a favorable outcome.

Will the unions play ball?

2 Responses to “Chris Collins on Union Negotiations”

  1. Rus Thompson January 2, 2008 at 5:07 pm #

    He is approaching this in exactly the right way. Question is how will the union leadership respond? I can tell you, they will be running commercials and air time saying Collins is trying to starve the people.

    This is when the real working union members of Erie County need to step up and tell the union leadership what to do and where to go. When talking to many, many county workers they see what is going on and are willing to give up things to make things fair and equitable for all concerned.

    The leadership on the other hand is where the problem will be and of course Albany and their inability or wherewithal to do something, anything with the Taylor Law and the Wickes Law.

    Albany representatives like Hoyt need to stop trying to be everything to everybody and get something done. They are the ones responsible for most of the mess we are in here in the county with their unfunded mandates and lack of reforming the system that has been broken for decades. They are up for reelection this year, they will all say the right things, yet once reelected will go back to sleep and sucking dollars off the lobbyist.

  2. Pauldub January 2, 2008 at 6:16 pm #

    Good point Rus. Many are quick to point out the unions as the bad guys. Actually it’s the top line that is the problem. They don’t always truly represent the opinions of the rank and file.

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