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NIFA board chief hopeful on union contracts

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman, center, during a meeting

NIFA Chairman Jon Kaiman, center, during a meeting of the NIFA board in Uniondale on Dec. 30, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The head of Nassau's financial control board Thursday promised to work with labor leaders and County Executive Edward Mangano for as long as it takes to clear up problems with new contract agreements proposed by three county unions.

Jon Kaiman, chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, said he hoped to reach a resolution Friday on the proposed pacts that would lift a three-year-old wage freeze.

"There does seem to be not only a possibility, but a probability that we will get to a conclusion on this in the very near future," Kaiman said.

Early Thursday, Kaiman sent a letter to Mangano directing that Memorandums of Agreement submitted to the county legislature by the Police Benevolent Association, the Civil Service Employees Association and the Detectives Association "be withdrawn or substantially amended so that they can be reworked in a manner consistent with the agreements negotiated amongst the parties and aligned with the conditions as set forth by NIFA at our public meeting on March 10."

At that meeting, NIFA extended for another year a wage freeze the state board first imposed in March 2011. The board also issued guidelines for the county and unions to lift the freeze. About 1,000 union workers rallied outside the NIFA meeting.

Mangano and union leaders said concessions in the proposed pacts would save Nassau millions of dollars and allow the county to resume paying contractual wage hikes and annual step increases.

Also, a state court judge on Wednesday rejected union claims that the freeze was illegal.

Kaiman met for much of the day Thursday with Mangano, PBA president James Carver, CSEA president Jerry Laricchiuta and Detectives Association president Glenn Ciccone.

Kaiman issued a joint statement from the meeting: "We've been discussing the language and substance of the MOA with the county and union leaders. There were key differences in wording although for the most part not necessarily in intent. With these discussions came greater clarity on the issues discussed. All parties will work over the next few hours and through the night and into tomorrow to get this to a final resolution."

Kaiman said he had consulted with NIFA staff and outside counsel and would reach out to NIFA board members after the meeting.

He declined to discuss NIFA's objections to the proposed agreements. In his letter he wrote, "The language as it relates to potential and future litigation is contrary to the language agreed upon while various clauses in the document set forth contractual commitments not anticipated or contemplated by the NIFA Board." The agreements would bar NIFA from freezing wages through 2017 and allow the unions to reopen their deals if another county bargaining unit gets better terms.

Also Thursday, Republican and Democratic lawmakers asked the legislative budget review office to assess the financial impact of the proposed deals. "I know we all want agreement on this, especially for those impacted by the wage freeze, but we need some solid numbers and facts to base a 'yes' vote on," said Legis. Judith Jacobs (D-Woodbury).

Kaiman said he has asked the county to set aside $129 million over four years to pay for the deals if expected savings do not materialize. NIFA member Chris Wright, who on Monday voted against the NIFA plan, warned that he expected the pacts to cost more than $250 million.

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