June 11, 2012 -- County Executive Robert P. Astorino Monday announced a tentative settlement with the Westchester Correction Officers Benevolent Association (COBA), whose members have been working without a contract since the end of 2008.
This is the second contract with a county union to have members pay a portion of their health care costs.
"Since taking office in 2010, I have repeatedly called on our unions to contribute to the costs of their health care," said Astorino. "What has been accomplished here, first with the Teamsters and now with COBA, has been done through the give-and-take of collective bargaining. This contract is fair to union members and it is fair to our taxpayers who cannot afford the $140 million a year for free health care for our workforce."
The COBA contract covers about 690 correction officers at the county's jail and penitentiary complex. The tentative pact was approved overwhelmingly by COBA's rank and file members on June 1. That contract now goes to the legislators for approval.
The tentative seven-year pact calls for modest wage increases that amount to an average of 2.6 percent a year. The wage increases would be spread over periods that are more than 12 months to lower the cost to the county.
These increases will be provided only to current employees. The county and union have agreed to a reduced salary schedule for new hires. That schedule will substantially reduce the county's labor costs going forward and will offset increases in salary for current employees.
Alonzo West, president of the union, said of the contract: "This was a hard fought battle where both sides had to consider each other's needs and make some difficult compromises. COBA members have been working without a contract for a long time and we wanted to reach a deal that not only protected their interests, but would also provide some stability moving forward."
The COBA contract comes about six weeks after Astorino reached an agreement with Teamsters Local 456, which represents about 120 county managers. The Teamsters contract, which also included modest wage increases and employee health care contributions, was given final approval last week by the Board of Legislators.
"No contract can ever fully satisfy all parties," Astorino said. "But this new agreement is a realistic response to the financial conditions confronting county government and our taxpayers who pay the bills. I want to thank the leadership of COBA and its members for their partnership in putting this agreement together."
Non-union employees, including Astorino, already contribute to their health care costs, under terms of a law Astorino initiated in 2010.
Astorino again called on the county's other unions, including its largest – the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) – to follow the example set by COBA and the Teamsters.
The CSEA has been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2011. The county's other five unions all have expired contracts as well. They represent police officers and superior officers, superior corrections officers, investigators in the District Attorney's Office and nurses.
Under terms of the tentative agreement with COBA, union members will begin paying a portion of their health care costs as follows:
- Upon ratification by the Board of Legislators, all current COBA members will contribute 12.5 percent to health insurance costs. (For employees getting health care under the county's self-insured plan administered by POMCO, this would be about $2,600 annually for a family plan or $986 for an individual.)
- The employee contribution would rise to 13 percent on Jan. 1, 2013; to 14 percent on Jan. 1, 2014; and to 15 percent on Jan. 1, 2015, with caps to make sure that premium on which contributions are based cannot rise more than 6.5 percent annually.
- New employees hired will pay 20 percent towards the cost of their health care.
- The tentative contract also includes increases in co-payments for doctor visits, emergency room visits and prescription drugs, as well as other cost-containment measures.
Compensation changes for current union members only will be as follows:
- Effective Jan. 1, 2009, union members will get a 3 percent raise.
- Effective Jan. 1, 2010, union members will get a 3 percent raise.
- Effective Jan. 1, 2011, union members will get a 2.5 percent raise.
- Effective April 1, 2012, union members will get a 2.5 percent raise.
- Effective July 1, 2013, union members will get a 2.5 percent raise.
- Effective July 1, 2014, union members will get a 2.5 percent raise.
- Effective July 1, 2015, union members will get a 2.5 percent raise.
- The tentative contract includes some increases in night shift differential and longevity pay.
COBA has been working without a contract since Dec. 31, 2008, when its last one expired.