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Today's Poll : Do you think the County should freeze the pay of union workers?

By Howard B. Owens
Rich Martin

I think it's rediculous to penalize the workers because the negotiators for the county a afraid to take a hard stand. The union is going to push and push hard for their members and the county negotiators are supposed to push back and somewhere in between a bargain is reached.
The problem here lies with the lack of cajones on the county side.Sometimes you just have to take a hard line but a bargaining agreement is bargaining agreement. You have to honor it to the end of the term. When it come time to renegotiate lay it down and stand on it instead of giving in to unreasonable demands.(Would have saved the city some cash when the fire deptment held it hostage)

Mar 5, 2010, 12:01pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

The freeze is for 2009 , does that make sense ?
Why is Jay Gsell keep getting a raise then ? Also the Sherrif Department had raises and a contract , why not the rest of the departments .The other funny thing is that this was suggested by the Way and Means committee . Does anyone realize that the Ways and Means committee is made up of County Legislatures and they are suggesting to the Legislature to make the pay freeze . Do you get it , they are suggesting to themselves to have a pay freeze . All this does it take pressure off the complete legislature and put it on the Ways and Means commitee wich in return is the legislatures . Also one of the Ways and Means members (Esther Leadly ) is on thuis commitee . Esther Leadly is also the one that approves manegment raises . So Esther approves giving Jay Gsell a raise but wants to have a pay freeze for the workers that are out in the field doing the real work . I am pretty sure the legislation also voted to give themselves a raise this past year . Wake up Genessee County , if people make less money ,then they spend less , in return less sales tax to the county . It's a viscious cycle . Mr.Gsell lead by example and stop making eveyone else pay for your raises .

Mar 5, 2010, 12:22pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

The socialist economy of western new york is beginning to crumble. People are leaving, the tax base is shrinking, people want lower taxes, but a large number of people depend on the government for jobs and they want raises. Cut government jobs, freeze payrolls, reduce services, lower taxes, and crush the CSEA.

Mar 5, 2010, 12:54pm Permalink
John Roach

I thought they offered the union a 2% raise and the union rejected it because the County wants to pay NEW workers 10% less than current ones.

Am I wrong?

Mar 5, 2010, 1:12pm Permalink
Chris Charvella


The 10% pay decrease for new hires is simply a way for Mr. Gsell to use the 'divide and conquer' method of union busting here in Genesee County. While, cute, this tactic is a rather transparent maneuver designed to pit new hires against veteran county workers.

On top of that, the county is pushing for even more concessions from the union. This is simply a repeat of the last 'negotiation,' where the county representatives doodled on a piece of paper and looked bored until the union reps got pissed and went away.

Don't think for a minute that forcing a pay freeze wasn't the county's goal from the beginning.

Mar 5, 2010, 4:25pm Permalink
John Roach

That was not my point. Thomas implied the County did not offer a pay raise, which was not correct. The union rejected the salary increase offered to current members.

I understand the union position on new hires. The State of New York did the same thing and it caused a lot of problems.

On the other hand, the people demand cuts in spending.
This will all go to arbitration sooner or later and the sooner the better.

Mar 5, 2010, 4:55pm Permalink
Chris Charvella


I suppose I was making the point (admittedly in a roundabout fashion) that the county isn't really offering pay raises because they know damn well that CSEA will not sell its soul for 2%. Mr. Gsell and company are simply throwing a chestnut out there with ridiculous strings attached so they can say later on 'Hey, we offered you guys a raise.'

I have no doubt that county officials will be able to do this with a straight face.

I agree, fair arbitration now, not later. If the county refuses to negotiate in good faith they're going to end up paying tons of money in retroactive pay raises. I'm sure they'll find a way to blame the union for the general fund expense when it happens too. See: City Police Department.

Mar 5, 2010, 5:36pm Permalink
Mark Potwora

Most private company's have a two tier wage set up..some have three tiers..I know i was part of a union that had these..The UAW has had these type of contracts for years..It is a way to stay competitive..But for some reason these county workers feel that they don't have to vote for this kind of set up...I say fine ..Then the county should impose the wage freeze..The union needs to wake up and see how things operate in the real world..stop your whining..If its so bad go and work somewhere else..When they sell the county nursing home because the union thought they would be selling there soul as Chris Charvella put it and are finally forced to work for a private wage they will see the error of their ways...I say cut the wage by 10%..Let them,the CSEA see what those in the private sector deal with..Quit your crying...

Mar 6, 2010, 12:32am Permalink
C. M. Barons

This question is moot. Initiating such an action would require renegotiating an existing contract.

The County and its public employees are bound by contract, having agreed to explicit pay rates, incremental or scheduled pay increases and non-wage benefits as described in the existing contract or (per Triborough ruling) upon the expiration of an existing contract. Any arbitrary or unilateral changes to the contract or the conditions set out in the contract would result in grievance/arbitration as seen with the ambulance/fire fighters contract (among others).

Any change in contracted compensation must be the result of collective bargaining by both parties.

The only unilateral recourse available to the county is through lay-off. The conditions of lay-offs depend upon the premise that the work described per job description(s) of any person(s) so-layed-off must be unavailable or unnecessary to operations. IE: such work cannot be re-assigned to other employee(s) or sub-contracted to private individual(s) or contractor(s).

Despite public interest in reining in expenses relative to payroll, labor law and state regulations pertaining to public employees (The Taylor Law) do not permit unilateral (management or employee) change regardless of funding levels, state, local budgets or the economy in general. Most of the county employees are represented by CSEA. That union and its local membership would have to agree to re-open the contract in-force and agree to any changes that alter the existing pay structure as spelled out in the contract.

Mar 6, 2010, 12:52am Permalink
C. M. Barons

Private sector contracts and public sector contracts are "apples and oranges" in regard to terms and ability to change conditions of those contracts. The Taylor Law that applies to all NYS public employees established a trade-off in exchange for sacrificing the option of strike. Unlike private industry contracts, public contracts remain in effect even upon expiration of the term of the agreement. In other words, a one year contract may expire at the end of the year, but the conditions described in the contract remain in force until re-negotiated. If the contract stipulates that a nurse's aide will be compensated at $7.00 an hour, and receive a 50 cent incremental increase annually, then despite the expiration of the contract, all nurse's aides continue to be compensated based on a $7.00 per hour rate and the annual increase of .50 per hour (as accrued) until the contract is renegotiated. Many contracts have step-systems built into them that describe any number of incremental increases as well as base pay. These schedules would continue in effect until all employees had reached the highest step. After reaching the highest step, such employees would continue to be compensated at the highest step rate until another contract came into effect.

Mar 6, 2010, 1:06am Permalink
Dave Olsen

I'm not taking a position on this, other than to echo John and Chris above; take this to arbitration now, get it settled and get on with life. I want to point out, however that most taxpayers in the county don't work under any tiered pay system or have any union. We are compensated by our production. Starting pay usually is based on experience and qualifications, raises are earned based on how well you do your job, and if your employer decides they don't need you or can't afford you anymore, you're laid-off or terminated. If you screw up, you're fired. Again, I'm not saying the county employees shouldn't have a contract or a union, I'm just saying they should realize that most of the people who pay the taxes in Genesee County don't empathize very much with their predicament.

Mar 6, 2010, 7:56am Permalink
C. M. Barons

Dave, you casually add elements to the discussion that are outside the scope of the question. Since when does public employment infer poor performance and unmerited retention or compensation? The theory behind a pay schedule describes a minimum and maximum pay for a specific title, presuming experience, training and skill perfection attained through the course of the schedule. It is not simply an automatic raise. Most contracts clearly describe performance reviews and connect job performance to both raises and continuation of hire. Having worked in both private and public employment, I see no difference between the two sectors supporting your inferences of undeserved compensation. On the contrary, I have generally been impressed by hard work and dedication that is under-compensated.

There is no tenure system in public employment; civil service laws and the county personnel department assure that paternalism and favoritism have no play in hiring. Job-for-life is a myth. The truisms that color perception of public sector employment can be filed under the heading: grass is always greener... The assumptions you make about rewarding poor performance would be abuses- whether manifested in the private or public sector.

Mar 6, 2010, 10:53am Permalink
Dave Olsen

C.M., I did not mean to infer anything about peoples performance or unmerited pay increases. I have family and friends who have or do currently work in the public sector, many people work hard for us taxpayers. I just want to point out that most taxpayers in Genesee County don't work in a union setting and a little understanding on the part of those in government might help them get some empathy. I don't think the grass is greener on the public sector side of the fence, but I am tired of everytime someone dares to suggest that pay and benefits ought to looked at, we get bombarded with " You must hate snow plow drivers, teachers, cops and firemen". Things are tough all over, people who have worked hard for many years have been thrown out on the street by their employers, not getting a raise for 2 years really ain't so bad in this economy. You have said you work 7 days a week to make ends meet, so I'm sure you understand that. By the way, management and politicians shouldn't have taken a raise either.

Mar 6, 2010, 11:52am Permalink
C. M. Barons

I think the other reality that slips under the radar is that raises and unanticipated expenses have to be budgeted for in the public sector. Unlike the private sector, a school or government agency cannot generate additional revenue (other than borrowing) midway through the fiscal year. A business can ramp up production, advertise or find new markets to add revenue. If a fire department puts out more fires, transportation department fixes more roads or a police department processes more felons, the opposite occurs- costs go up.

Mar 6, 2010, 10:45pm Permalink
Thomas Mooney

Mark, Are you a retiree from UAW ? If so , how can you belittle another union ,private or public . The union you retired with has changed this country for the worst . You are sitting there with I am sure a good chunk of change and now you want to do everything possible so that change stays with you for the rest of your life , but you don't care if other union members are will ever make enough to retire . The UAW strikes when it doesn't get what it wants , public unions can not , so they are dependent on fair and equal contracts drawn up by fair and equal manegement. The County Legislatures keeps giving them selves and the department heads along with Sheriffs raises , but not the rest .Would that fly with the UAW if they were representing the County . Mark , You should be ashamed of yourself . The unions worked for you, and it drove the price of buying an American car unrealistic .

Mar 8, 2010, 7:57am Permalink
Bea McManis

To be fair and not single out Mark alone, I would bet that there are others on this site who are receiving union negotiated pensions or on lifetime disability either from the public or private sector who have done nothing but demand the end of the public employee unions and the reduction of salary and/or the elimination of public jobs.
It would be interesting to learn how many of those worked in the public sector. How many are receiving a pension from thier job and how many are receiving permanent disability from the state or federal government.
Are they ready to have their pension or disability rescinded? I would think not.
It is just a matter of "I got mine and the rest of you can go to hell" syndrome (my impression, not a direct quote from anyone posting).
Isn't it ironic that they can continue to say that they don't trust the government, but they rely on and trust that same government to send their disability check to them on a monthly basis?
It really doesn't matter which union Mark receives his pension. The fact is that unions made the middle class possible. The belief that without unions the robber barons, of an earlier era, would eventually have a "come to Jesus' moment and begin to provide a safe working environment and a decent wage to support their families is bogus.
One non union company (now out of business) put out a directive, to those in their plant, limiting their employees' activities during non-work hours. If an employee didn't agree to the directive they found themselves out of a job. I can remember being appalled that an owner of a company felt that he had that much power over his employees that he could dictate their personal lives.
I wonder how many of you would accept that type of directive in order to keep your job? I wonder how many of you would begin to consider that a union could protect these employees?

Mar 8, 2010, 8:46am Permalink
Richard Gahagan

In a preview of political fights to come, New York State and county budgets are being crippled by outsized public sector union salary, pension, and benifit obligations that are now coming due in a perfect storm—a combination of an aging population, a declining tax base, and a fiscal crisis.

The Democrats who narrowly control both state legislatures have a notoriously cozy relationship with unions and they will be unlikely in the extreme to bite the hands that feed. But the unsupportable absurdities of the current arrangement are becoming evident.

Government services need to be cut, government programs and jobs eliminated, salaries and benifits reduced and public sector unions need to be busted.

The area is far too dependent on the government for survival and the existing government sponsored status quo is falling apart. Once again it is becoming more and more apparent that socialism does not work.

Mar 8, 2010, 9:56am Permalink
Charlie Mallow

There is a lot of truth behind what Richard and Bea wrote but, I’m sure their reasoning for doing so was much different. Too many people in our area and for that matter our state are completely dependent on government for their pensions, jobs and livelihoods. If we don’t work for the government, it is still the biggest employer and therefore government directly controls purchase of most of the goods and services that are sold. Government is a very large part of our economy.

There is no way back from the brink as far as I can tell.

A couple percent of increase to people living for the most part pay check to paycheck isn’t really going to matter. The dependency on government is the issue and there will never be any worthwhile change because of it. Privatization is the answer. We need to wean people off of government and then consolidate what remains. Too bad our political system will never allow any of that to take place, on a scale that would make any difference.

Mar 8, 2010, 10:31am Permalink
Mark Potwora

Tom first off my point was that there are tier wage scales in the UAW..I never said anything about pensions..The county is offering the workers a raise..They want to start new hires at a lesser rate.The CSEA says no way...I'm glad for what my union negotiated thru the years for my self and others..We also had contracts with no raises ,higher health care copays, tier wages scales, and also the pensioners just took a big hit in healtcare losing some of those benefits.There are UAW workers in plants taking huge cuts in their hourly wages.Delphi in rochester being one of them....This was all done to help the company to be successful and be in more of a partnership role.....What is the CSEA doing to help control costs..Let them state their case..What are they willing to give up at this time ..Sounds like nothing to me....Hard times call for hard measures...
I do have a problem with all the non union workers of the county getting any type of raise at this time ...It is all wrong..

Mar 8, 2010, 11:56am Permalink
Bea McManis

In a perfect world, I would be in favor of privatization too. In that perfect world we could depend on the private sector to look after the myriad of issues now covered by the government. Enviroment; safety; fair wages; overtime; sick time; personal leave; vacations, etc.
There would be no need for the government to mandate if the private sector could be trusted to step up to the plate.

Mar 8, 2010, 11:55am Permalink

I agree Charlie.

I think the thing that incenses people is the fact while they are having their pay go down or have to work more jobs to survive, Those who work for "us" (perception) are fighting for raises.

Listen, I agree with Bea on a couple of points. Unions were needed in the past because they fought to create and maintain safe working enviornmemts for workers. They demanded fair wages for their members and they did in fact help to create what is now the middle class in this country.

I don't by any means dislike union workers. They are Mothers and Fathers, just like me, working hard to support their families. What I do however dislike, is the divide that is growing between the public and private sector.

While private companies are downsizing, cutting benefits, eliminating pensions and freezing or even reducing wages, pulic sector entities are actually growing. Their benefits are by far better and the wages in many cases are out pacing private sectore jobs. The main reason why benefits were always better was because the wages were so much lower!

That's all frustrating, true, but Charlie's right on with this I feel. So many people who complain about the rising costs of our government are also the recipients of it's benefits. We have to find a way to stop depending on the government to solve our problems.

Privatize more of the services that we have!

Mar 8, 2010, 12:03pm Permalink
Bea McManis

Posted by Chris Charvella on March 8, 2010 - 10:55am
Richard, how many times a week do I have to catch you plagiarizing before you start posting original thoughts.

Paragraph 10:

Funny you should post this. I also found it at:…
In a preview of political fights to come, both New York State and California budgets are being crippled by outsized public sector union pension obligations that are now coming due in a perfect storm—a combination of an aging population, a declining tax base, and a fiscal crisis.

The Democrats who narrowly control both state legislatures have a notoriously cozy relationship with unions and they will be unlikely in the extreme to bite the hands that feed. But the unsupportable absurdities of the current arrangement are becoming evident.

the same article was reprinted (with credit) at

Mar 8, 2010, 12:12pm Permalink
John Roach

To what extent do you think education (not college) can be privatized?

You and I favor consolidation to lower many government costs, but what local (City or County) functions do you think can be "privatized" here in Genesee County?

Mar 8, 2010, 12:34pm Permalink
Bea McManis

Posted by Phil Ricci on March 8, 2010 - 12:03pm

While private companies are downsizing, cutting benefits, eliminating pensions and freezing or even reducing wages, pulic sector entities are actually growing. Their benefits are by far better and the wages in many cases are out pacing private sectore jobs. The main reason why benefits were always better was because the wages were so much lower!

That's all frustrating, true, but Charlie's right on with this I feel. So many people who complain about the rising costs of our government are also the recipients of it's benefits. We have to find a way to stop depending on the government to solve our problems.

Privatize more of the services that we have!

Phil, can you give examples where wages, in Genesee Co. or the City of Batavia are outpacing the private sector?

Mar 8, 2010, 12:48pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

Bea, I work for a private company that does take care of its employees. I think most private companies have figured out long ago that their most valuable asset is their workforce.

I’m also not going to debate your real point that unions contributed to our way of life and without them we would all be a lot worse off than we are now. I think the problem is with the inability of most unions to change with the times and allow their employers to be more flexible. This has caused our strongest industries to wither away. There needs to be a team mentality between labor and management for a private company to succeed.

On the flip side, I do see good reasons for public employee’s to have unions representing them. Take a look at the yearly debate over pay raises in the city. The only employees that do not have a negotiated raise are the non-union administrative people. Those good people are singled out every year. They are without protection.

Mar 8, 2010, 12:49pm Permalink


I would say that locally, DPW (including Parks, Buildings and Grounds) and Water Services would be the first two I would look at. At a state level? My God! ALL OF IT!!!:-) Seriously, The The Thruway Authority would be a Fantastic place to start!!!!


The average City of Batavia employee makes roughly $52,000, while the average Batavian just $27,000. I have the public salaries file from the city. I could, not now sorry at work and don't have it with me, look at a position to position comparative, but that is a pretty sizable difference overall I'd say. Add to that Benefits and Pensions and it's understandable the frustrations people have.

Mar 8, 2010, 1:26pm Permalink
Charlie Mallow

John, I am a graduate of a private Catholic grammar school and if my parents had enough money I would have went to a private Catholic high school as well.

It’s a shame that we are locked into a public school system. People should have a choice and be able to send their children to private school. The system should be open to allow for competition.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:10pm Permalink
John Roach

Thanks. Word was that you were thinking of running for the School Board, and I wanted to know.

And, I agree with you. I favor School Vouchers and Charter Schools.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:28pm Permalink
Richard Gahagan

The public sector unions are bankrupting the country from California to New York. They want you dependent on the government for your very survival. That's where they get their power. If politicians do what needs to be done and cut budgets, government programs, salaries, benefits and jobs they loose union campaign donations and fear loosing future elections.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:31pm Permalink
Chris Charvella

Privatizing DPW may not save all that much money. Contracts that involve materials that have fluctuating markets (gas and salt for example) tend to fall into the cost-plus category. Why pay cost-plus when you can just pay cost? It may be worth a look though and I'd have an open mind about it.

Privatizing water services is not something you want to do. Water supply safety is a government function and should remain so. This may be a department that could benefit from consolidation though.

Your salary gap has more to do with the lack of skill jobs available in this area than anything else. You really have to do an apples to apples job comparison to paint the true picture.

Mar 8, 2010, 2:40pm Permalink

Fair enough Chris, I said that too. I think it would be a better example to do a job to job.

Although I also would say that skill gap may be true enough, it is still all of those $27,000 paying for the rest! I understand why so many are tired and mad!


Charlie on School Board!?!?!?!?!? Oh man just when we got rid of him! :-) That rumor has been going around for awhile now. It's crazy the stuff that gets made up sometimes!

Mar 8, 2010, 2:46pm Permalink

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