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Oyster Bay town employees union votes down contract

Oyster Bay Town Hall in 2014.

Oyster Bay Town Hall in 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Four days after unionized Town of Oyster Bay workers narrowly defeated a proposed contract with the town, the town board Tuesday authorized looking into privatizing garbage pickup and recycling — a move the union said could cost more than 200 union jobs.

CSEA Local 881 members voted 427-417 on Friday to reject a four-year contract that would have included a 2 percent, two-year pay cut to take effect Jan. 1, along with a clause barring layoffs. Pay would have returned to current levels in 2019 and risen 1.9 percent beyond those in mid-2020.

The contract also would have reduced overtime pay for sanitation workers and required employees living outside the town to pay mileage costs when driving town-owned vehicles home.

Union President Jarvis Brown said he wants “to get back to the negotiating table” as soon as possible to prevent layoffs.

“The fight’s on,” Brown said.

Robert Freier, a former Democratic candidate for the town board, accused the board of using the specter of privatization as a “scare tactic to get them to accept the contract.”

Councilman Anthony Macagnone denied the accusation. “We do not play with people’s work or their lives,” he said.

With the defeat of the contract, the town has a $3.5 million financial hole, and the board’s authorization to draw up requests for proposals for privatization before Dec. 31 is a serious effort “to explore our options to bridge the gap,” he said.

“We had a very fair contract we had presented on Friday,” Councilman Joseph Muscarella said. The provisions of the contract would have applied to town board members and other nonunion employees, he said.

In addition, Macagnone said, “I feel the town more than met the workers halfway by voting to raise taxes.”

In November, the town board voted to increase the property tax levy 11.5 percent. Without the tax increase, layoffs, a larger pay cut than 2 percent or both would have been likely, Macagnone said.

A longtime union sanitation worker who declined to be identified said he voted against the contract because of previous contract concessions to the town and because overtime cuts would have cost sanitation workers thousands of dollars. He said officials should trim the many contracts for outside consultants and attorneys before targeting employees.

Union member Doug Robalino, the general foreman in the highway department, said the contract was a fair compromise.

“They voted to raise taxes, and I thought we could give a little,” Robalino said. “Two percent isn’t much, and it’s a lot better than 7 percent,” a number Brown said was discussed before the tax hike was approved.

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