Various union members and leaders cheer after NIFA voted to...

Various union members and leaders cheer after NIFA voted to end a 3-year wage freeze during public session in the early morning hours of May 03, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Nassau Interim Finance Authority vote to lift union employee wage freezes also cleared the way for the county to bring in a new class of police recruits.

Even as NIFA and union lawyers worked on agreements in Uniondale, recruits awaited word, beginning at 9 p.m., at police headquarters in Mineola.

At one point during a long night, James Carver, head of the Nassau police officers union, ordered in pizza for the more than 150 recruits who had been told they would be able to sign paperwork by 11 p.m.

By 2:20 a.m., after the NIFA vote, Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter headed to the auditorium to oversee the process of signing up the recruits.

In Uniondale, County Executive Edward Mangano said he would swear-in the recruits at 9 a.m. Monday.

"We've been waiting a long time for this class," he said.

NIFA, a few minutes shy of 2 a.m. Saturday, had lifted a three-year wage freeze on four county employee unions.

Though the hour was late, the back of the meeting room at the Marriott Hotel in Uniondale was filled with union members, who cheered as board members, in a 6 to 1 vote, passed a series of resolutions ending the freeze.

"It is time," said Jon Kaiman, the authority's chairman, who actively participated with Nassau and its unions in negotiating the new pacts.

The seven-member state board in control of the county's finances approved the contracts for the Civil Service Employees Association, the Police Benevolent Association, the Detectives Association and the Superior Officers Association.

The contracts call for employees to get their first pay increase in three years retroactive to April 1, followed by a series of pay hikes totaling more than 13 percent by the end of 2017. Some employees would get additional step raises.

Under the deals, employees give up an annual pay raise that had been due in 2013. The unions, which are still challenging the legality of the freeze imposed by NIFA in March 2011, also would give up any steps due in 2011 as well as their 2012 salary increase unless a court ultimately rules the freeze was illegal. A State Supreme Court judge already has ruled that the wage freeze is legal and the unions have appealed.

Chris Wright, the board's lone dissenter, said early Saturday that he objected because he remained unconvinced the county could meet the cost of the contracts.

"I sincerely hope that the county's elected officials will decide to do their jobs and govern, so that we don't have to continue to do it for them," he said.

The board also took the unusual step of passing a resolution requesting that Nassau amend its four-year plan to include the costs of the pacts and how the county intended to pay for them.

If Mangano and officials fail to manage the plan, according to the resolution, NIFA would -- for the first time in the authority's history -- step in and modify the budget on its own.

Mangano, who was asked by NIFA members to come to the Marriott, arrived at 9:15 p.m. Friday. Over the next few hours, he alternated sitting with NIFA members in a basement meeting room and with union members, who were gathered upstairs.

A representative for Legis. Kevan Abrahams, the legislature's minority leader, was denied a request to speak during the meeting.

Outside, the Democrats raised questions about the hourslong process of shuttling papers between NIFA and union leadership and whether it produced changes in agreements that already had been approved by lawmakers and union representatives.

Kaiman said that unions, NIFA and their legal counsel spent that time clarifying language in the agreements, changes that he said did not modify the pacts.

Mangano and the unions say the deals will save hundreds of millions of dollars over the long run because of concessions that include requiring new employees to pay a percentage of their health insurance premium and pension costs.

Kaiman said the control board calculates the deals would cost $129 million over the four years. The county legislature's budget review office has reported costs could vary from $120 million to $292 million.

NIFA in March adopted guidelines for Mangano and the unions to lift the freeze. The conditions included designating speed camera revenue and any excess money from sales tax collections and mortgage recording fees to pay for the agreements. Since then, county officials have reported dips in both sales tax revenue and mortgage recording fees, blaming the falloff on the bitter winter.

With Randi Marshall

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