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The general membership is upset they're even asking us to give back our raises. 4% of $30,000 isnít a lot of money.

CSEA local says no concessions in Essex County

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Essex County is still struggling to contain a projected property tax increase of 10 percent next year. Supervisors have considered and rejected selling the county nursing home, and an across the board cut in payments to outside agencies.

Essex County Chairman Randy Douglas has also called for the Civil Service Employees Union's 400 county employees to except a pay freeze.

After months of silence, the union local president Mike McGinn said this week there's no chance the union will agree to pay freezes or other concessions.

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Essex County is still struggling to contain a projected property tax increase of 10 percent next year. Supervisors have considered – and rejected -  selling the county nursing home, and an across the board cut in payments to outside agencies.

Essex County Chairman Randy Douglas has also called for the Civil Service Employees Union’s 400 county employees to except a pay freeze.

After months of silence, the union local president Mike McGinn said this week there’s no chance the union will agree to pay freezes or other concessions.

“I know they’re upset because I won’t come to the table, but I don’t feel I have to,” he said. “I don’t want to see them freeze it because it’s only going to create hard feelings later in life and it will go to court and they will have to pay us.”

Board Chairman Douglas fired back at the CSEA local, saying a pay freeze is meant to avoid layoffs, not punish workers. “The union can hammer away at me all they want. I was a CSEA member for 15 years and proud to be one,” he said. “All I was trying to do is avoid layoffs.”

And Douglas repeated his warning that without a freeze, the CSEA contract will cost the cash-strapped county $700,000 in raises over the next two years.  “You take $1.4 million over the next two years, that’s a huge increase. It doesn’t give us a lot of wiggle room,” he said. “I’m scared. I hope things get better in the economy.”

McGinn has kept his silence while county leaders hammered the union for refusing to come to the table.

But no longer, he said. This week he said he can’t keep quiet while the county’s lowest-paid employees get pummeled in the press. “The general membership is upset that they are even asking us to give back out raises,” he said. “four percent of $30,000 isn’t a lot of money. Some of the department heads are in the $80,000 range and some are more.”

McGinn is a longtime Department of Public Works employee. He said county leaders are avoiding the real issue —  poor management and wasteful spending.  “I feel as a county employee, that if the supervisors just look a little deeper they could find millions of dollars they could save. That’s my stand and it always has been,” he said. “For example, they did a bridge in Keene Valley for $370,000 with only two accesses. For what reason? Because somebody in the neighborhood wanted a bridge?”

Douglas said he will not push for legislative action to freeze union pay, as Sullivan County did. “I’m not going to bring it to the supervisors to say, ‘let’s freeze wages in the middle of a contract,’” he said. “I’m going to wait and see what the governor’s proposal is.”

And, Douglas said, he’ll watch for court action in other municipalities that enforce wage freezes.

McGinn promised that if Essex County tries to freeze pay at 2010 levels, the union will immediately sue for breach of contract.

The wages of non-union upper-tier county employees have been frozen at 2010 levels for the coming year.

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