The Saugerties Town Board and the Teamsters’ Union appear to be far apart on issues of salary and health benefits, and the differences led to an angry exchange at the Town Board meeting of Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Sandra Shaddock, business agent for Teamsters’ Local 445, which represents public works employees, told the board that workers should have been able to vote on the new health insurance plan; the board violated labor law by not holding such a vote, she said. In addition, workers have had trouble using it and have had to pay out of pocket, she said. Finally, Shaddock spoke about the ongoing contract negotiations: she said the salary increase of 7.75 percent over three years was not enough. The contract ran out over a year ago and Shaddock recently took over negotiations.
Supervisor Kelly Myers and the rest of the board disagreed with all of Shaddock’s main points and accused her of taking a private negotiation public.
“Every year, you are spending thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to fight the taxpayers,” Shaddock said, indicating the crowd of highway and police workers behind her. “These are your constituents, and you’re using their dollars to fight them.”
Union alleges loss of benefits
Myers said the new health plan, which increases deductibles and also the number of hours employees must work to establish eligibility from 31.5 to 37.5 per week, while allowing for the town to reimburse employees for the expenses, is not a significant change from the previous plan, and does not require a vote.
Shaddock disagreed, and warned the matter could end up in court.
Kelly Myers said the wage increase offered to the Teamsters, 7.75 percent over three years, is the same amount accepted by three unions representing other town employees. “It would not be fair to them to give the Teamsters a larger raise,” she said.
Shaddock dismissed the idea that the Teamsters should receive raises in line with other employees, noting that as she went through the budget, she found some employees received raises while others didn’t.
Shaddock cited several examples of employees whose insurance was not accepted after treatment, leaving them to pay hundreds of dollars out of pocket. “They were supposed to have no gap in service,” she said.
Shaddock was critical of the higher deductibles in the plan, asserting that such plans are more expensive in the long run because workers are less likely to seek ongoing treatment at a cost of less than the deductible. Myers responded that the town will pick up three-quarters of the cost of the deductible – something her health insurance doesn’t provide.