3 unions, Nassau reach pact to lift wage freeze

Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Jon Kaiman is shown at a Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) meeting in Uniondale on Oct. 9, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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Leaders of Nassau County, three unions and the county financial control board agreed Saturday on a deal that would lift a 3-year-old wage freeze for almost 7,000 government workers.

Jon Kaiman, the Nassau Interim Finance Authority chair, said the negotiating parties -- including County Executive Edward Mangano and leaders of the Police Benevolent Association, the Civil Service Employees Association and the Detectives Association -- agreed "after several days of intense discussions" to a four-year pact.

The tentative agreement includes yearly raises ranging from 2 percent to 3.75 percent and a resumption of step increases that are based on the number of years on the job until top scale is reached.

The county would see cost savings by requiring new employees to contribute 15 percent to their health benefits and a sum not yet disclosed to their pension plans, Kaiman said.

"This is a win for all stakeholders as it saves millions for taxpayers while returning wage incentives to our workforce," said Brian Nevin, a spokesman for Mangano, in an email.

He said the agreement "achieves hundreds of millions in savings for taxpayers." Its potential $120 million in short-term costs will be offset by savings, including replacing high-wage retirees with new employees, Nevin said.

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NIFA has required Nassau to set aside $129 million in new revenue from speed cameras, sales tax and mortgage recording fees to cover the contract costs if the union concessions do not generate the anticipated savings.

The unions' rank-and-file members, the NIFA board, and Nassau County legislators must sign off on the deal. Two other unions -- the Superior Officers Association and the correction officers unit -- must still negotiate an agreement, Kaiman said.

"I'm not going to say it's a great deal, considering the reality of today," said CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta. "It's what we needed to do to get our members moving again. They just cannot survive under this wage freeze much longer."

NIFA, a state oversight board, imposed a wage freeze in March 2011 at Mangano's request to help the deficit-ridden county save money. Financial experts say that through 2013 the county saved $230 million.

A state court Wednesday rejected claims by the union that the freeze was illegal.

The unions can still sue for the lost wages, but under yesterday's agreement, they waive their right to accrue those lost wages in calculating their salaries going forward, Kaiman said.

"We're starting from today. They don't get the benefit of lost money," Kaiman said.

James Carver, the PBA president, said he would recommend his members approve the deal by month's end.

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"There's give and take on both sides here," he said.

Glenn Ciccone, president of the Nassau County Police Department Detectives Association, said, "There are members that are really struggling financially."

Newer members have had their pay stuck at the lower ranges. "They're getting older, they're having kids, they're trying to buy houses and they can't do anything because they're frozen at a very low salary scale," Ciccone said.

The deal expires Dec. 31, 2017, and sets a 3.5 percent raise for the employees effective April 1 if the deal is approved by then, Kaiman said. In September 2015, a 3.75 percent raise is scheduled; the following September, there would be a 3.5 percent raise, and a 2 percent raise is scheduled for January 2017.

Nassau County Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said of the agreement: "I look forward to looking at it over the next coming days." A decision, he said, will depend on further analysis of its terms.

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Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), the presiding officer, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. With Ted Phillips

 

THE LABOR DEAL

 

Must be approved by union members, the NIFA board and the Nassau County Legislature

THE UNIONS

Civil Service Employees Association: About 5,000 employees

Nassau County Police Benevolent Association: 1,500 employees

Nassau County Police Department Detectives Association: 330 employees

RAISES

April 2014: 3.5 percent

September 2015: 3.75 percent

September 2016: 3.5 percent

January 2017: 2.0 percent

BIG UNION CONCESSION

New employees will contribute 15 percent of costs for medical plans.

EXPIRATION OF CONTRACTS

Dec. 31, 2017

Source: NIFA and Union officials

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