Frustration mounts between hourly employees and Town of Tonawanda

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Hourly Employees Association and the Town of Tonawanda are at a standstill.

About 200 town employees have been without a contract for the last six years. The last time the union had a contract was in 2011.

Health coverage and retroactive pay are the main issues driving contract talks.

“My guys are starting to get very frustrated. It’s been a while without raises, they’re still going out and doing the same work they’ve done everyday, giving the same great services everyday, our workforce is down almost 20 percent,” said Paul Catalano, HEATT (Hourly Employees Association of the Town of Tonawanda) Union President.

Town Supervisor, Joseph Emminger says they can’t agree on health insurance. He says 48 percent of union members pay nothing for coverage, while employees hired after 2004 contribute some cost. Emminger is asking employees to pay five percent of what the town pays, which is $25,000 per year.

“That equates to a little over $104 a month we are asking everybody to contribute. In this day in age we certainly don’t think that is out of line,” said Emminger.

Catalano says the union would consider the town’s offer only if co-pay’s and prescription costs remain low. They also want some retroactive pay in return.

“We’ve offered to give up some years of retro to save the cost of healthcare, but it still isn’t enough right now,” said Catalano.

Emminger says that’s just not feasible, even though the union says they’ve offered cost effective solutions.

“We can’t go retroactive. We just can’t sustain that, it’s not fair to the taxpayers of this town, we represent 73,000 residents,” said Emminger.

Emminger says he’s looking at the long term savings for the town and all of its taxpayers.

As election day looms, it’s unclear when or if a contract will be ratified.

“They’ve made this political. This contract is about the election,” said Emminger.

“Hopefully we can get together soon, but if not we’ll take it to November and see what happens,” said Catalano.

Emminger says the town filed improper practice against the union several weeks ago. He plans to sit down with the union next week to continue negotiations.

The union says they will be picketing on Monday before the town board meeting. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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