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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Brown: Battle in Nassau over union agreements

Members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority board

Members of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority board meet at the Long Island Marriot in Uniondale on July 25, 2017. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

It’s alive!

Or maybe not, depending on who is doing the talking — or more accurately, the letter writing — about whether a memorandum of understanding between Nassau County and its unions is valid and enforceable.

It’s dead, absent required approvals from the legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, NIFA said in a letter to county attorney Carnell Foskey last week. NIFA was talking about agreements to restore millions of dollars in longevity payments to members of the county’s major labor unions and guarantee them no layoffs through most of next year.

Oh, no, said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Nassau Civil Service Employees Association, the county’s largest union: The MOUs, as county and union officials call them, are very much alive.

“As far as I am concerned, our MOU was signed by both parties, is valid and I intend to keep meeting with my members and put it up for a vote,” he said in an interview.

And if union members approve the pact and Nassau balks?

“We will see them in arbitration,” he said of the county.

But let’s fall back a bit.

Last week, as copies of the agreements negotiated with the unions by Rob Walker, chief deputy to County Executive Edward Mangano, began circulating, Foskey fired off a letter to Laricchiuta questioning the validity of the MOUs.

The agreements would restore annual “longevity” payments — which have remained the same since 2011, when NIFA imposed a wage freeze — to union workers.

The payments remained stalled even after NIFA lifted the rest of the wage freeze in 2014.

The MOUs would cost Nassau a total of $10 million. Eligible employees would receive half their payments next year, with the balance payable when they retire.

On Friday, Ed Ward, a spokesman for Mangano, said NIFA agreed with Foskey’s interpretation, which was that the agreements were flawed not properly drafted. “They are not going anywhere.” Ward said.

But Laricchiuta said he and his union’s lawyers considered them valid. “We’ve dealt with Rob Walker over the years and he’s signed MOUs,” Laricchiuta said.

“This is just bizarre and getting more bizarre since Walker insisted that Carnell Foskey review the agreements, which he did, and Foskey changed some language before it was signed,” said Laricchiuta. “And now he says there’s a problem?”

As for NIFA’s letter, he said, “the agreement is between the union and the county and NIFA says it isn’t negotiating, so why are they even in this?”

The county’s contracts with its major unions expire at the end of the year. NIFA in its letter repeated that it will not sign off on any new labor pacts — MOUs included — until Nassau produces verified summaries of major terms in existing union contracts.

So far, that’s not happened, either.

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