Contracts: There Is No Going Back

There is a big flaw with public-sector contracts. Once something gets put in, especially something beneficial to the union, good luck on getting it out of future pacts no matter how much it hurts taxpayers.

Dunkirk, for instance, once included a no-layoff clause in its city deals. Another contract has minimum staffing. Jamestown has negotiated or imposed minimum manning agreements with most of its unions.

Think those are ever going to be negotiated out?

Tonight, Chautauqua County will consider reducing the number of years a sheriff’s deputy has to work before retiring. Currently at 25 years, the reduction to 20 could be approved in the monthly meeting in Mayville.

For many in the private sector, that 20 years looks too good to be true. In the county, however, indications are this 20-year deal will save taxpayers funds down the road.

All we can say is if this 20 years becomes part of the current deal, other unions will be looking at the same type of term in their contract. And, what if somewhere down the road, that 20 years needs to be hiked to 25 years because the financial benefit is not what we thought it would be?

That is correct. There is no going back.

County legislators are not making a decision on just five years tonight, they are making a decision on how contract terms will be looked at — by all public unions in our area — in the future.

This vote cannot be taken lightly. Remember, this group — by an 18-1 margin — favored four-year county legislator terms. Residents did not want that — and voted their disapproval by 62 percent in November in a referendum.

There’s no referendum on this vote, but there is likely to be some type of consequence down the road. Consequences of contracts negotiated long ago have come home to roost in Dunkirk and Jamestown.