Recent events involving the Schenectady County Sheriff’s Department have led to proposed changes to the department’s new contract with its union.
The county voted 14-0 to pass the contract at its meeting on Tuesday. Brian McGarry, a Republican legislator representing Duensburg, Princetown, Rotterdam and the village of Delansson, was pardoned.
County Attorney Chris Gardner said the contract, which will retroactively begin January 1, 2021 and run through December 31, 2025, was approved 73-5 by the Sheriff’s Benevolent Association.
Greg Snyder, president of the Sheriff’s Benevolent Association, said that in late August, a corrections officer and sergeant were bitten by a prisoner as they were checking a prisoner’s cell.
He said that after recovering from the incident, those officers had to take medicine which made him ill for a week.
It was one of the most disturbingly dangerous incidents Gardner said he had ever seen.
Snyder said that’s just one example of a dangerous situation an officer could face and why the union struggled to raise hazard duty pay. Officers get 1.5% over their hourly or pay rate when working in hazardous conditions. Under the new contract that would increase to 2.5%.
On 6 August, 10 sheriff vehicles were vandalized along with five firefighter vehicles in the department’s parking lot. Each car had more than $250 but less than $1,500 in damage. If the new contract passes, officers may be reimbursed up to $1,000 on a claim certified by the sheriff.
Also the proposed contract has an incentive for correction officers to get vaccinated. Correction workers who vaccinated before December 1st will receive an additional vacation day and those vaccinated will receive a $200 bonus if 80% of all corrections workers are vaccinated.
The union has 162 members, Snyder said, with only about 35% being vaccinated.
“I believe it will help impress some members,” Snyder said.
“Sixty-three corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19 — a rate of over 40%,” Gardner said in an email to county manager Rory Fluman, a document provided for the meeting was. “While there is no proven reason why officers contracted COVID in the correctional facility, their positivity rate is nearly triple the rate for residents of Schenectady County.”
Other changes to the contract include increased pay and changes to longevity pay.
Executives will receive a 2% pay increase and a $2,000 bonus in 2021. Thereafter, the salary will increase by 2.25% every year till 2025.
Gardner said the contract also allows for a 25-year longevity step, meaning when an officer has been in the department for 25 years they will receive 15% on top of their basic pay.
The former contract offered a 20-year longevity move, where executives in their 20s received 12% on top of their basic pay.
Gardner said executives make about $55,000 a year.
“We are trying to entice members to stay because of the staff shortage,” Snyder said.
Both Snyder and Garder said fewer people are becoming officers.
“Only 39 individuals passed the most recent civil service exam for corrections officers,” Gardner said in his email to the contract. “In the last examination 85 persons passed.”
Other additions to the contract refer to those that have recently been added to other union contracts with the county. These include a holiday to Juneteenth, changes to health insurance plans, and paid family leave for a newborn, adopted or foster child.
Reporter Shenandoah Briar can be reached at 518-478-3320 or at [email protected]
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: News, Schenectady County