Bellone, union leaders: AME has pact, includes no-layoff promise
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Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and leaders of the county's largest municipal union said Wednesday that they've reached a tentative deal on a new, four-year contract featuring a no-layoff promise, but provided very few details.
The administration's agreement with the 6,100-member Suffolk County Association of Municipal Employees would be retroactive to the start of this year and go through 2016. According to Bellone and AME president Dan Farrell, it pledges "additional job protections and modest raises," as well as the no-layoff clause.
Bellone, a Democrat, said the deal would provide the county unspecified "structural savings" by "making new employees more affordable." AME officials later said this means new hires would wait longer to gain step pay increases, and that current worker raises won't come until the third year of the deal.
Neither Bellone nor the union would quantify the raises or estimate the deal's overall financial impact to the county. The two sides must still formalize details in a memorandum of agreement before the deal is presented to AME members and then the county legislature.
The union has been hit hardest by Suffolk's fiscal crisis -- almost 500 of its members have been laid off since 2012, including about 200 this summer when the county's John J. Foley Skilled Nursing Facility closed.
"In the aftermath of the economic downturn, to have that kind of security is tremendous," Michael Finland, AME executive vice president, said of the no-layoff clause.
The tentative deal comes just before the Friday deadline for Bellone to release his proposed 2014 budget and close the remaining $180 million deficit.
Legislative Minority Leader John M. Kennedy Jr. (R-Nesconset) said he needs more details.
"I'm curious how we can have salary increases and, for that matter, a no-layoff clause, when we've basically been clubbed over the head with the prospect of a quarter-billion-dollar budget deficit," he said.