4:07pm

Thu July 12, 2012
Regional Coverage

Lawmakers consider changes to living wage law

Lawmakers are considering some changes to the seven-year-old living wage law in Syracuse. The tweaks are targeted at the people who serve you food when you fly out of town.

Suggestions from the Living Wage Committee would specifically add concession workers at Hancock International Airport to those covered under the legislation.  That's something Committee Chairwoman Dawn Clarry says proponents have been pushing for, for a while.

"Back in 2005, when this ordinance was first passed, we were under the impression that concession workers at the airport would be covered," said Clarry.  "Under the previous administration it was clear that they did not feel the same way, so we are making sure that those folks are covered."

But do those approximately 50 concession workers, employed by Delaware North, want to be bound by the legislation?  General Manager Walter Zuc, joined by about a dozen employees at city hall during a council meeting this week, says they don't want higher wages to lead to lay offs.

"They know they are valued employees, that they get paid a fair amount, and that with this increase, they are afraid they are going to lose their job," said Zuc.

Zuc says there are some issues of fairness that concerns some employees about the living wage legislation.

"Everyone gets the same wages. I mean, we have some person  who's been there for 46 years and someone would start next week, they would get the same wage.  And also a cook, which is a skilled job, or a baker, would get the same as an unskilled job," Zuc said.

Zuc says living wage rules would raise costs to Delaware North between $13,000 and $14,000 a week.   

The airport makes $500,000 a year from the food and beverage agreement.

The other reason for making changes, is the impending takeover of the airport by the Syracuse Airport Authority.  Authority Chairman Bill Fisher says that's something that should be discussed during the takeover negotiations.  He says any increases in the cost of doing business trickle down.

"If the prices go up so high, that  the flying public stops buying food and beverages, then the airport will receive less money.  And if we receive less money, we have to raise the landing fees to the airlines, which goes in the opposite direction of what we are trying to do," said Fisher.

Syracuse Common Councilors are considering the changes.

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