Oyster Bay officials and the town’s public workers union have begun negotiating changes to their current contract.
“There have been discussions between management and the union to make some changes to the contract,” Deputy Supervisor Gregory Carman said.
Jarvis Brown, Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 president, said the union started the formal process of reopening the contract with a letter sent Friday to Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino.
“We want to start negotiating our reopener, and a reopen is only for positive gain, nothing negative,” Brown said, adding the union wants to extend the contract, which ends on Dec. 31, 2021.
Saladino has already agreed to give back six paid holiday work days to sanitation workers, Brown said. Previously, sanitation workers received time-and-a-half-pay on certain holidays and days around holidays. The current contract cut that pay for those days for sanitation workers, but not other town employees. Those six days represented a third of the holiday pay lost by the sanitation workers, Brown said.
“Six of them were given back and, of course, through the reopener, there's more negotiation to be had,” Brown said.
Carman said returning those six days "is just bringing pay parity for those members of the sanitation department that work on holidays."
Any changes to the contract would require town board approval, Carman said.
The contract states the union may request the town reopen it any time after Jan. 1, 2020.
Carman and Brown said the town has backed away from a planned reconfiguration of sanitation routes. Last year the town board approved $145,000 for studying new sanitation routes.
Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., who is challenging Saladino in the November election, said new contract talks were “Saladino’s attempt to control union members during a contested election.” Altadonna said a union contract should be “designed to incentivize our workforce in a fair and productive way from the very beginning.”
In an emailed statement, Saladino said Altadonna was “insincere” and had been “sitting silent while the prior town board punished workers with salary reductions.”
The holiday pay issue is among several included in a lawsuit brought against the union last year in state court in Riverhead by nearly five dozen sanitation workers who alleged the CSEA didn’t represent them fairly in contract negotiations. The union refutes the allegations.
The sanitation workers’ attorney, Svetlana Sobel of Syosset, said talk of changes to the contract were positive but “just because promises are being made, the lawsuit’s not going anywhere.“
"The bottom line," Sobel said, "is the sanitation employees were unfairly targeted by cuts."