Three down. Five to go.
In reaching another contract settlement with Westchester County union workers -- the latest was the Corrections Superior Officers Association -- County Executive Rob Astorino took another step toward having all workers contribute to their health care premiums.
Still elusive, however, is the county’s largest union, the Civil Service Employees Association, which has been working under the terms of a contract that expired in 2009. It has nearly 4,000 workers; many are clerical and social workers.
The seven-year agreement announced this week with the Corrections Superior Officers Association requires members to pay 12.5 percent of the cost of their health care insurance. The union represents 120 captains, sergeants and assistant wardens at the Westchester County jail in Valhalla. The contribution is about $2,600 a year for family coverage and nearly $1,000 for an employee with single coverage.
While not an insignificant amounts, the contributions are not unlike what most taxpayers, particularly those in the private sector, have paid for years. It’s another reasonable compromise and helps chip away at an expense that has grown significantly in recent years. It also represents the new norm in contract talks -- health care contributions are rightly on the table.
In this deal, union members’ contributions would increase to 13 percent of their premiums in 2013, 14 percent in 2014 and 15 percent in 2015. New hires will pay 20 percent from the get-go.
In exchange, the union members get an average 2.6 percent pay increase through 2015. The new contract is retroactive to 2009, when the old one expired; raises are 3 percent for 2009 and 2010, and 2.5 percent for each year beyond that.
The county already requires nonunion employees to contribute to their health care plans. Recent contract settlements with corrections officers and Teamsters include contributions for the first time.
In addition to CSEA, unions for police officers, higher-ranking police, nurses and law-enforcement investigators haven't reached agreements yet. All of their contracts have expired.
It’s too early to know if this deal is a tipping point of sorts for the remaining unions, or if those groups will try to stall negotiations until after the 2013 county executive race, but let’s hope they agree that these types of concessions aren’t too much to ask.