(From left to right) NIFA Board members Christopher P. Wright,...

(From left to right) NIFA Board members Christopher P. Wright, Chairman, Adam Barsky, Paul D. Annunziato and Paul J. Leventhal at a Tuesday meeting in Uniondale. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Zip it.

That's the intent of one of the more interesting portions of the agreement between Nassau County and its police detective's union.

The pact was approved in January by the county legislature, and last week by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the board overseeing county finances.

Both are hoping the so-called "zipper clause" in the Nassau Detectives' Association pact will set the stage for negotiating the same language with the county's other four unions.

What, pray tell, is a zipper clause?

It's like a zip-lock bag, of sorts, where the parties agree to consolidate — and isolate — its contents from unanticipated surprises.

The one in the detectives' contract reads like this:

"This Agreement represents the existing contractual terms and conditions as they exist as of the date on which this Agreement is fully executed."

It goes on to explain, "The parties have diligently searched for all relevant documents (including, but not limited to, collective bargaining agreements, interest arbitration awards, memoranda of agreement, and side letters) in creating it."

The aforementioned search is a big deal in Nassau, where a single contract often includes thousands of pages of related documents, including side letters and arbitration decisions.

The piles of paperwork, in fact, can be daunting — so much so that in 2017, NIFA came down hard on the administration of then-County Executive Edward Mangano for sending over thousands of pages of contract-related documents -- rather than summaries of each pact, as NIFA had requested.

“Our lawyers tell us they’ve never seen anything like this before,” NIFA chairman Adam Barsky said at the time. A week or so later, the standoff was resolved — for the moment — with an agreement that the county and unions would work together on summaries. 

But let's jump back to that zipper, which, according to Barsky, was one of NIFA's negotiating goals.

"The parties acknowledge that it is possible that, notwithstanding their best efforts as of this date, there may be additional documents that would have been appropriate for inclusion in this Agreement had they been discovered and shared with each other prior to the full execution of this agreement," the document reads.

In short, both sides may have missed something — in a file, a kitchen, a closet? — that might have had an impact on the negotiated agreement.

Nonetheless, the zip lock stays zipped, unless, among other things, there is agreement between both sides to reopen the pact. (And that's a simplified version of the much more complex process outlined in the document.)

The agreement, of course, is significant in other ways too.

It removes what had been a bar to higher pay for detectives, which means more detectives — which means more detectives working on cases. In the past, officials said, officers lost pay when they became detectives.

The pact also has detectives working more days, and contributing to health care costs.

The county and NIFA are hoping some of the union's concessions find their way into other contracts, too.

"We felt it was a game changer because there has never been a contract in Nassau County that has had this level of major givebacks in terms of working more hours, working more shifts, contributing to health care," Barsky said.

As for the zipper clause, he said, "That was not without us digging in our heels."

Barsky called the contract, "very critical in terms of setting a pattern and getting the concepts out there that we want all the other contracts to be held by."

The contract is different in another way.

In years past, an agreement with Nassau's Police Benevolent Association usually came first. The detectives' union is one of the county's smallest. The PBA's president could not be reached for comment last Friday.

Jerry Laricchiuta, head of the county's largest union, the Civil Service Employee's Association, said negotiations between that union and the county are continuing.

He said he feels no need for the CSEA to fall in line with the detectives' agreement.

"They think it sets a pattern," he said in an interview. "We don't."

And what about the zipper clause?

"We have 40 years of negotiated contracts," he said. "The stack of … [memoranda on agreements] alone is about a foot and a half tall."

"Who the hell am I to say that because we didn't find a piece of paper, it doesn't exist?" he went on.

That alone. he said, makes him wary of any zipper clause.

"We can zip it up, but you got to leave the fly open a little bit just in case," Laricchiuta said. "Not for any political reasons, not for negotiating purposes, but just in case."

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