Union members to vote on labor deal

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Oyster Bay unionized public employees are scheduled to vote Friday on a tentative deal between union leaders and town officials that would save 200 jobs in exchange for salary freezes in the new year and other labor concessions.

About 1,100 members of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 are expected to cast paper ballots at four polling places in town, to accept or reject the proposal, which would reconstruct their contract to include a no-layoff clause and extend it one year to 2016.

Union members would take a hit to their paychecks. For example, workers will forgo salary hikes, step increases and longevity pay in addition to taking a payroll lag -- 25 instead of 26 checks -- in 2013. And 2014 would see a step increase but also another payroll lag and 2 percent raises in January and July, rather than a 4 percent hike at the start of the year.

Should the membership reject the deal, the town would continue the layoff process, town spokeswoman Marta Kane said.

"Certainly, the town would prefer to avert layoffs," she said. "We need financial assistance from the union, and hopefully it'll all go well."

The measures are intended to cut expenses to rescue the town from a fiscal crisis that includes borrowing to cover a $13 million shortfall this year.

About 90 employees retired earlier this year through an incentive program, but 200 layoffs or union concessions were still necessary to cut costs, town officials said. The town is expected to save $10.5 million in salaries and benefits from the buyouts and $8 million in union salary givebacks, a Standard & Poor's credit ratings agency report showed last month.

A scheduled Nov. 5 union vote on a deal was postponed by superstorm Sandy.

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Union president Robert Rauff Jr. said he and colleagues at the union, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the town's workforce, have been visiting members at work to explain the proposal.

"We've done everything in our power possible to get what we ended up bringing to them," to vote on, Rauff said Wednesday. "It's been a rocky road, but we got security, and we got jobs."

The union would also have its benefits, he said.

Rauff expressed some skepticism that the deal would pass Friday. "I wouldn't be surprised if this thing doesn't go down," he said.

Union members at meetings last fall said they and their families were bearing the brunt of the town's financial problems. A public safety employee who did not want to be identified by name Wednesday said employees want more information about the deal and want the figures used to calculate losses and savings.

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