The Nassau County Legislature on Monday unanimously approved a 13-year pact with the county's largest public employee union that includes wage hikes for thousands of workers and ends a six-year stalemate.
The previous labor agreement that Nassau's Civil Service Employees Association, Local 830, was working under expired at the end of 2017. The new contract will run, retroactively, from Jan. 1, 2018 through Dec. 30, 2030 and cost the county $765 million, according to a report from the Legislature's Office of Budget Review.
Union members overwhelmingly approved the deal in August. But on Monday, some urged legislators to reconsider it because of a provision that increases from 10 to 20 the number of years an employee must work to qualify for lifetime health benefits. The clause takes effect June 30, 2026.
More than 100 current employees will be shy of the 10-year mark by that date — some by only a few months — and will have to work a total of 20 years to qualify for the benefit, county officials and employees testified. Some said they left the private sector for county government benefits.
Anna Maria Redmond told legislators: "I took a $4,000 cut in pay with the knowledge that I would be getting the insurance benefit after working for 10 years, to only now have that taken away from me."
To reach the 20-year mark, she said: "I would have to work until I'm 75 years old, assuming that it doesn't change again."
Renee Campanile, an accountant, said she joined county government in November 2016.
"My retirement plans that I've had for the past seven years are now null and void," she said. "I will be four months shy of 10 years on June 30, 2026. This means that I would have to work an additional 10 years, that would be an additional nine years past my retirement age."
Andrew Persich, Nassau's budget director, told legislators the county had to make tough choices.
"I'm not diminishing the people who are impacted," Persich said. "But we did this agreement for the masses of the people in order to give them a financial benefit as a result of this. This was one of the means to get there."
Persich said that overall, the negotiation was "a long, arduous process."
"Nobody gets everything they want. We believe this is a fair, equitable deal that fits within the county's financial structure," he said.
Wages will increase between 2 and 3% for 2020 through 2030, according to the contract.
Employees who work 15 years will receive a stipend of $2,000.
CSEA members who work 35-hour workweeks or more will receive a signing bonus of $3,000.
The county will save $280 million largely by changing the health plan for union members next year. Members will have higher copays and the county will pay less in premiums. Members won't have to contribute to their premiums, a sticking point in negotiations.
The new contract affects 4,200 employees, union officials said. More than 3,000 other Local 830 employees work for Nassau Health Care Corp. and are not affected.
Some legislators said the contract should have included a day off for Juneteenth. Persich said the county would have to make it a holiday for members of all county unions.
"We can't have some with a day off and some not," he said. County Executive Bruce Blakeman's administration can find another way to establish the holiday, he said.
"It's not passing a smell test," Nassau Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said, for "a community that is as diverse as Nassau County."
"The bulk of your African American population sits in that CSEA bargaining unit, and it's lost on me why the administration would not in good faith work toward putting that in."
The Nassau Interim Finance Authority must sign off on the contract before it can go into effect. NIFA is scheduled to vote on the proposal Thursday.