JAMESTOWN – City of Jamestown employees past and present rallied on Monday night in support of retiree benefits that Jamestown’s Mayor is trying to restructure as part of this proposed budget.
Around 75 city workers ranging from DPW staff to police and firemen spoke out against Mayor Eddie Sundquist’s plan to save money in his budget because they fear the changes would impact healthcare insurance benefits for retirees.
The Mayor says the changes are clerical in nature and should not impact current benefits received by past employees. Sundquist says claims that he plans to get rid of retiree healthcare, are false.
“We’ve never discussed that in the budget presentation, we actually talked about just looking at the Medicare eligible retirees who already pay for Medicare through their Social Security, we can move them to a fully insured plan and thereby saving them money and saving the city money in doing so,” said Sundquist. “The benefits remain exactly the same, and in fact, have enhance benefits.”
Retired Jamestown Police Sergeant Joe Genco, who the changes would directly impact, brought a copy of his union health insurance contract as evidence to what he agreed to.
“We agreed in 1987 for health insurance for retirees that’s never changed, the language I don’t believe has changed one iota, and I want to make members, particularly members of the council aware if they’re not aware, of the language as it exists right now,” said Genco. “They’re trying to take away something that says they can’t do.”
Genco says if the city was forced to make changes, he would rather have them negotiate with the retirees rather than enact the changes in the upcoming budget.
The mayor spoke directly to the group, just moments after a meeting discussing the future budget.
“There is not a way that retirees can negotiate for the benefits and active members cannot negotiate for their retirees, they can only negotiate for their active members who will then become retirees, this is a bit of an issue in the city because we have lifetime benefits for our retirees,” explained Sundquist while speaking with reporters. “I can’t speak to what the courts are going to say if there is a grievance, but, I guarantee you that once these union members and retirees sit down and go through the benefits, they will find out they’re getting even better benefits than the current contract calls, and they’re really won’t be much of an issue.”
Sundquist says if federal aid doesn’t come to cities like Jamestown, he will be forced to make very tough decisions like layoffs and other major cuts in order to move through COVID-19’s financial impacts.