COOPERSTOWN _ As the Otsego County-CSEA labor dispute continues into its third year, Colleen Wheaton, president of CSEA Central Region 5, has written a caustic letter to James Powers, chairman of the Otsego County Board of Representatives.

Wheaton wrote in response to a letter Powers sent to the county’s approximately 600 Civil Service Employees Association workers in late January.

In a letter dated Feb. 3, Wheaton states: ``I must start by saying that I find the tone and spirit of your letter to be offensive. Your supposed objective of providing accurate information to the workers was not reached, because your letter is full of inaccuracies itself. You accuse CSEA of `typical union rhetoric’ while spewing forth what we could easily term `typical management rhetoric.’ It does nothing to advance the truth or help to resolve the current stalemate.”

Her letter continued, ``We see your letter for what it truly is, a shameful attempt at trying to deflect legitimate criticism against you and your board for failing to work with the union and offer a fair contract to your workers, and a failed attempt to confuse the workers and turn them against their union leadership.”

The letter continued, “Unlike you, Mr. Powers, we know that our members are wise enough to see through your tactics, and they will continue to support our union, hold out for a better contract deal and hold you and your fellow board representatives accountable.’’

Powers wrote to CSEA workers after their negotiators turned down a five-year contract that would have granted raises of 2 percent for 2007, 4 percent for 2008, 3 percent for 2009, 3 percent for 2010 and 3.5 percent for 2011.

At the time, Powers said he’d heard from some union members who disagreed with their leaders and wanted to accept the offer, which would grant them a cumulative raise of more than 9 percent for this year.

``In light of what’s happening with the economy, I think it’s more than fair and all we can afford,’’ he said.

CSEA spokesman Mark Kotzin sent Wheaton’s letter to The Daily Star, along with salary charts that indicate Otsego County’s workers earn less than the average salaries offered by all adjoining counties.

Powers has said Otsego County’s CSEA full-time employees work fewer hours than their peers in other counties, many logging only 30 hours a week in the summer.

A state-appointed fact-finder, Sumner Shapiro, received briefs from both sides in late January and is likely to offer his nonbinding assessment of the impasse sometime in the next several weeks.

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