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Long Island

Islip Town union workers OK contract with raises

Islip Town union members Monday approved a six-year contract that will give 700 workers a series of raises totaling 10.7 percent and for the first time require new hires to pay for part of their health premiums.

"I'm thrilled," said John Burns, Long Island director for Teamsters Local 237. "It's been a long battle. Now we can move on."

Town workers had been without a contract for more than two years. Members voted down a proposed contract in December 2008. Last year amid a plunge in mortgage tax revenue, the town laid off 39 workers. Union and town officials brokered a new deal April 8.

Members of the white-collar unit voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract, with a tally of 189-38, Burns said. Blue-collar workers passed it 204-93.

"I'm pleased," Islip Supervisor Phil Nolan said. "It's a fair contract that we can afford."

Under the new contract, the town will suspend payments to a union benefit fund and instead divert that money, about $560,000 a year, to pay for raises that the town otherwise could not afford, town and union officials said.

Current employees will not have to contribute toward their health plan. Workers hired after the contract is ratified by the town board will pay between 5 and 15 percent of their health premiums, and also wait longer to accrue vacation days and qualify for lifetime health benefits.

The centerpiece of the deal is a Local 237-managed union benefit fund for vision and dental care. The town now contributes $750 per employee per year to the fund, which has grown to $2.5 million. The town will suspend payments to the fund until its total falls to the equivalent of a year's worth of contributions.

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