By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO May 8, 2001 Historically, Sullivan County has had a difficult time during negotiations with the various unions representing county employees. In some cases, negotiations have gone on for over a year while the workers continued to work without a new contract.
To avoid these problems in the future, County Manager Dan Briggs suggested that a Labor Management Council be created. The council would discuss various issues that would affect all county employees. The council would not look at individual matters but bigger issues, such as insurance or safety.
The proposed council was discussed at the Sullivan County Legislature's General Services Committee meeting on Thursday, April 19. Briggs was not at the meeting, as he was upstate with County Planning and Economic Development Commissioner Alan Sorensen discussing the new Empire Zones. The General Services Committee debated the formation of the group anyway.
One legislator, however, did not see the need for the committee and wanted Briggs to be present for the discussion.
"It sounds like it is a pair of suspenders in case the belt breaks," Legislator Rodney Gaebel stated. "I first heard about this on Tuesday. I would like to know the whole picture before I vote. I want to feel comfortable about this."
Gaebel made a motion to table the issue, but that received no support. The other lawmakers, while cautious, felt it was a good idea. Committee Chair Chris Cunningham said it was like "extending an olive branch." Legislature Chair Rusty Pomeroy called it "a good forum to solve issues before negotiations begin."
The committee would be made up of the chair of the General Services Committee, the County Manager, the Commissioner of Public Works, the Commissioner of Health and Family Services, the Commissioner of Personnel, the Commissioner of General Services, a representative of Teamsters Main Unit/DPW Supervisory, a representative of Laborer's International Union, a representative of the Civil Service Employees Association (Jail Unit), a representative of the New York State Nurses Association, and a representative of the Sullivan County Police Benevolent Association. The council would be an advisory board and would meet when these larger issues arise.
The resolution passed the committee four to one (Gaebel was opposed) and was set to go before the full Legislature during their monthly meeting on Thursday, April 26. Before the meeting began, there was some question whether or not the resolution would pass.
Prior to any action, Cunningham addressed his fellow lawmakers. He stated that he felt the resolution might not pass and wanted to give the legislators more time to discuss it. He then made a motion to table the issue for one month. That motion was seconded by Legislady Leni Binder and passed unanimously.
Thus, the Labor Management Council will be further discussed at the next General Services meeting on Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m.