The Village of Mineola claims some of its employees are "overdrawn" on vacation time. Their union contends that for 20 years workers have accrued vacation under an unwritten but understood rule.
Now the union is taking the village to arbitration, alleging officials are breaking precedent and trying to take back time workers have earned.
The village said that after performing an audit this summer, it discovered that employees were earning vacation time beginning the first of the year, and not, as their contracts specify, on their anniversary date of hire. The union contends, however, that for two decades employees have accrued vacation time beginning Jan. 1, though such language was never written into the contract.
Now the union believes employees who have already taken vacation time this year, before their anniversary date of hire, will be deducted days from the reconciled cycle, to begin this year on the anniversary date.
John Spellman, village attorney, said the village is simply abiding by the terms of the contract. "People get awarded on their anniversary date; if they're given it earlier, it wasn't earned," he said. "Because we advanced vacation days erroneously, a correction is being made."
Jim Gangale, a labor union specialist who represents the union, said the village was changing the terms of the contract. "The folks have had their vacation period from January to December and they're changing it to their anniversary date, which means that some of the folks have already gotten days in advance and they're trying to take it back."
Spellman said employees were not losing any vacation time.
"They were overdrawn," he said. "They get every day they earn; they never lose a day."
The union filed a grievance with the board soon after, claiming a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. In September, the board voted unanimously to deny the union's grievance. Gangale said the union has filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, and the case awaits arbitration.
Gangale said he was taken aback by the village's decision, which he said came in the midst of contract negotiations.
"We wanted to handle it in negotiations," he said. "If we changed the language in the collective-bargaining agreement, it wouldn't have been illegal."
"They put notices in people's paychecks and that was it."
Spellman said the union was notified before letters were sent to the employees.
"We have no choice," Spellman said of the matter.