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Union picket

A city union member waits his turn to testify at Wednesday's city council meeting.

The city of Albany has declared an impasse in its efforts to reach an agreement on a new contract with employees in one of its bargaining units.

The declaration means both the city and the union must submit final offers within the next week at a date set by the state Employment Relations Board. Once those final offers are published, both sides must observe a 30-day waiting period, during which mediation can continue.

If an agreement is not reached within the waiting period, the city may implement its final offer and the union may give a 10-day notice that it intends to go on strike.

The city is negotiating with two units within the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

AFSCME Local 2909 represents 177 people, including library, pool, senior center and street maintenance employees. AFSCME Local 2909-1, the transit unit, represents seven bus drivers, transit dispatch and transit maintenance.

The impasse declaration includes only the general unit, AFSCME Local 2909.

City officials have requested an additional mediation session with the transit unit to discuss safety concerns brought up by the union.

Danette Jamison, human resources director, said in a media statement the city’s intent is to continue to include the transit unit in any mediation sessions held with the general unit.

Police and firefighters have separate bargaining units and are not affected by the current negotiations.

The groups began negotiations in April and decided in September mediation would be necessary.

"Impasse does not mean that the City is unwilling to continue meaningful discussions with its employees," Jamison wrote. "Quite the opposite, the City has declared impasse with the hope of expediting resolution through further discussion."

Both sides are looking at a four-year contract. Wages, overtime, health care and certain working conditions remain to be decided.

Sheena Dickerman, president of both the general and transit unions, did not lay out current issues in response to the city's declaration. "We feel the parties are close and we prefer to do the bargaining at the bargaining table," she told the Democrat-Herald.

Several union representatives spoke during public comment time at Wednesday's meeting of the Albany City Council to ask the city to stay at the bargaining table and provide "a fair and livable wage." 

In an earlier interview, Dickerman said the union is seeking a 5 percent cost of living allowance increase for the first year of the contract, followed by a COLA of 3 to 5 percent the second year and 2 to 5 percent the third year. It was unclear Friday whether that had changed.

In a summary of its last proposal, the city stated it is proposing a 2.5 percent COLA the first year, retroactive; and increases of 0 to 3 percent in subsequent years, tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The city also has agreed to add a nondiscrimination subsection to the preamble, in response to a union request, and to reduce automatic contract renewal from three years to a one-year rollover if neither side opens negotiations for a new agreement.

The city has said it will increase its contributions to a Voluntary Employee Benefit Association, a pretax fund employees can use or save for medical costs. The proposal is for contributions of $1,000 per individual and $2,000 per family for January 2019, increasing that to $1,500 and $300 for the next two years, then going back to $1,000 and $2,000 for the fourth year. It was not clear as of late Friday where the union stood on that proposal.

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