Union requests 3% increases for Saranac Lake DPW workers

Mickey Smith, business agent with Teamsters Local 687 representing the village of Saranac Lake’s Department of Public Works workers at Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting. (Enterprise photo — Jesse Adcock)

SARANAC LAKE — At Monday night’s village board meeting, a union representative for the village Department of Public Works asked that a trustee sit in on wage negotiations, but the request was denied.

Negotiations between the village and the Teamsters Local 687 for a new contract are at impasse — which means the state gets involved, and will send an arbitrator from the Public Employment Relations Board to a May meeting to mediate negotiations for a new contract.

“If we could have one or two trustees and the mayor there, that would be awesome,” said Mickey Smith, business agent with the Teamsters. “That’s all I ask.”

After discussing the matter in executive session after the meeting, trustees said the village pays attorney Janelle LaVigne to handle contract negotiations — and would rather let her handle it.

The last contract expired in mid-2017, and wages have been frozen since then — with $16.63 per hour base pay for a motor equipment operator (MEO) working for the village.

Smith handed out documents at the meeting of the average DPW employees make in surrounding municipalities, including the villages of Potsdam, Tupper Lake, Malone, Lake Placid, Gouverneur, Canton, the towns of North Elba, Harriestown and the city and town of Plattsburgh.

The average pay for an MEO taken from those localities is $21.03 — 26 percent more than village MEOs get paid, according to the documents Smith prepared.

“If we asked to get them to the average, it would blow your budget apart,” Smith said. “We’re not even asking for that. We’re asking you to create a budget that moves these employees in the right direction.”

The way to do that, he said, is a three percent increase annually. In contracts between 2014 and 2017, the village offered 2 percent increases.

“We will be making a swift reply to the union, because we all seek a fair and equitable contract,” village Mayor Clyde Rabideau said, “knowing that we are constrained by a two percent tax cap.”