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UNION LEADERS VOW TO WORK ON HEALTH BENEFITS

Two Cheektowaga union leaders say they are willing to work with the town to save money on health benefits.

The Cheektowaga Town Board adopted the 2003 budget and said it included no pay increases for town employees because there was no agreement on saving on health insurance. The savings would have been put to the raises.

While there have been no agreements on modifying health insurance, there still may be time to negotiate changes in contracts before the end of the year.

The heads of the town's two largest unions say they have proposed contract changes that will save the town enough money for raises.

Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said union negotiations have not been fruitful. But David Mossman, president of the Cheektowaga Police Club, said that police officers have been and are willing to negotiate.

"They make it sound like the union is the bad guy," he said.

Gabryszak said he wasn't referring to the police union but to blue-collar workers when he said negotiations weren't fruitful. The town and the Town of Cheektowaga Employees Association could not come to an agreement on health care, early retirement and the elimination of the Recycling Department before the Town Board adopted the budget last Monday. The board eliminated the department and instituted the early retirement incentive.

"Those comments weren't geared toward the police at all," Gabryszak said.

Mossman said his unit presented a proposal that would save the town more than $100,000 in health care costs.

"Their response was to cancel the next meeting," he said, adding that the two sides have not met since then.

"I've had some conversations with David," Gabryszak said. "They've indicated a willingness to do something."

Kevin Glascott, president of the association, said his union also made a proposal he says satisfies the three concerns of the town over recycling, health insurance and raises.

Negotiations between the town and the association have broken off twice.

"There haven't been any more negotiations, but there have been conversations," he said. "We may or may not go back.

Contracts with two unions, the Supervisory Association and the Police Club, were up at the end of last year. Neither union has new contracts. Contracts with the town's other three unions expire Dec. 31.

Gabryszak said the town wants to be consistent in agreements over health care with each of the five unions.

"I guess I'm hopeful but realistic," Glascott said. "I think they have to decide what they're going to do before we decide what we're going to do."

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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