Oyster Bay: Union talks stall, 150 layoffs set

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Oyster Bay officials in an open letter distributed Thursday to town employees emphasized that it had a long-standing family-style relationship with the union, but failed labor talks set the stage for imminent staff cuts.

"At the start of negotiations we were confident that, because of our family-like relationship with our Union, we would find a solution," reads the letter, signed by Supervisor John Venditto and the six town council members.

Civil Service Employees Association Local 881, which is in its third year of a six-year contract and represents about 90 percent of the town's workforce of about 1,200, "rejected" the town's offer, the letter reads. "Accordingly, we have begun the layoff process," it states.

The town will lay off the equivalent of 150 full-time positions, officials said in an interview, in an effort to remedy budget woes that include this year's $13 million shortfall and a downgraded Standard & Poor's bond rating.

The lines of communication between town and union leadership are open, officials say in the letter. While officials don't expect the union to change its mind, "when there is time there is hope,"the letter reads.

The letter also states officials want to resolve the fiscal crisis in "as humane a manner as possible."

In the letter, the officials detail their offer to the union during the summerlong negotiations. It includes an immediate payroll lag, a pay freeze in 2013 and 2014, a 4 percent pay increase and a step in 2015, as well as a no-layoff clause.

In response to information presented by Venditto in the letter, CSEA Local 881 president Robert Rauff Jr. said yesterday, "He's being very honest about it, but he's not being complete."

Rauff called the town's offers "completely unreasonable."

The letter does not mention negotiations to extend the union contract, he said. Initially on the table was a two-year extension with a 2 percent pay hike, he said. The offer was reduced to a one-year extension with no pay raise, he said.

"We can't do that," Rauff said. "We can't take that big of a hit without at least something in it."

In an additional cost-saving measure, the town offered early-retirement incentives -- $1,000 for each year of service -- that 89 employees accepted.

Oyster Bay's total outstanding debt at the start of 2011 was more than $674 million, according to the most recent state comptroller reports.

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