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Massena keeps management insurance contributions

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MASSENA - The Massena Town Council was planning to revisit a recent decision requiring management employees to begin contributing 5 percent of their health costs.

But at the last meeting, Supervisor Joseph D. Gray tabled that discussion indefinitely, meaning those employees will continue contributing for the time being.

There are five employees - Town Clerk Georgette M. Davis, Highway Superintendent Frank J. Diagostino, Assessor Michael C. Ward, Bookkeeper Nancy Fregoe and the vacant Massena Public Library director position - who are not in the bargaining units and whose health insurance can be changed without contract negotiations. The council unanimously decided in January to require those staff to begin contributing, with the exception of former library director Lynn Fountain, who was already doing so.

Mr. Gray had said the timing of the January vote was important because the council was negotiating two contracts for its unionized employees. Management employees paying health insurance could affect the outcome of the union contracts, he said at the time.

But both Massena Public Library and town hall employees chose a salary freeze over health contributions in their finalized contracts. The management are still the only staff contributing to their health insurance, although new hires in the town hall and library as of January 1, 2012 have to contribute 5 percent to theirs.

Mr. Gray said revisiting the management’s contribution came out of a question of fairness for them given the contracts’ outcome. The discussion item had been placed on a couple of consecutive monthly meeting agendas, and was finally tabled indefinitely at last month’s meet.

Mr. Gray said the council could still revisit the issue later on.

“We’re not going to worry about that right now,” he said.

Management are actually getting a better deal with an annual 2.5 percent salary increase and a contribution than a freeze with no contribution, he said. The council used a similar argument during contract negotiations with Teamsters Local 687.

“The union representative didn’t accept that premise,” Mr. Gray said. “We believe we demonstrated through spreadsheets it would be financially better for them. In the end, there was much more money in the pocket with the contribution and raises than without the contribution and no raises.”

Councilman Charles A. Raiti said he was open to revisiting the contributions down the road. The council had been tied up with internal woes at the library at the time of the tabling, he said.

“I wasn’t ready to talk about it at that point in time,” he said. “Are we going to talk about it in the future? Who knows?”

Ms. Fregoe, who previously criticized board members for going after the only group without union representation, had little to say about the tabling.

“It is what it is,” she said.

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