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Impasse over lifting Nassau's wage freeze

Nassau’s control board meets Monday and there still is no agreement on whether it will lift or extend a three-year wage freeze, which expires March 14.

After coming close to a deal, labor leaders have balked at what they say is a demand by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority that county unions give up their state court challenge to the legality of the freeze.

If county unions win the lawsuit, they expect to be awarded retroactive pay. Nassau fiscal experts say the freeze has saved the county $230 million through 2013. The legislature’s budget review office last week calculated the freeze would save a total $419.7 million if continued through 2014 -- which would have to be repaid if the unions win.

The Police Benevolent Association and the Civil Service Employees Association emailed members this week complaining about the impasse.

“Let me be clear: Barring a full settlement of the lawsuit, we will not enter into any agreement that damages our chances to recover the lost salaries that were taken away from us!” wrote PBA president James Carver. “Although the lines of communication remain open, as of now, any potential settlement has taken a step back. We will not enter into any settlement that doesn't protect our members' rights and exposes us to potential future wage freezes.”

CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta wrote, “The main driving force of our settlement discussions has always been the pain and financial burden this wage freeze has placed on so many of our members. That being said, we will not enter into an agreement that damages our chances to recover lost raises due to our membership, while making contract modifications that save Nassau County money. That was NOT the framework we used for weeks to get to this point and we are not about to allow NIFA to change the rules after we in good faith made our modifications.”

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said he still hopes for a settlement.

“At the end of the day, the unions are trying to negotiate for virtually all the dollars that are in negotiation,” he said in an interview. “That’s not possible. Those dollars don’t exist.”

He added, “NIFA is open to the idea of lifting the freeze if we can do it in a way that doesn’t bankrupt the county. We’re moving ahead to see if we can achieve that goal.”

Some suggest that NIFA will extend the wage freeze but provide guidelines for lifting it if certain financial goals are met.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for County Comptroller George Maragos said the comptroller on Tuesday asked NIFA for the terms of a proposed settlement discussed among county leaders last week and the cost assumptions included in the deal.

But he has yet to receive a response, the spokesman said.

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