Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto’s proposed 2017 budget assumes $7.7 million in savings from layoffs that could be challenged by the union, according to several legal experts.
A union vote scheduled for last week, ahead of Tuesday’s budget hearing, was canceled as negotiations continue and has not been rescheduled — leaving a potential budget hole as the town works to finalize its budget by Nov. 15.
When the town and the Civil Services Employees Association Local 881 union amended its contract in 2012, the parties added a no-layoff amendment and extended the contract to the end of 2016. If the town and union can’t negotiate a new contract by Jan. 1, 2017, the terms of the contract will remain in effect under New York State’s Public Employees Fair Employment Act, also known as the Taylor law, the experts said.
“If a contract expires without a new agreement, the status quo is frozen in place,” said Susan H. Joffe, an employment law professor at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University who reviewed the contract. “As a general rule, the expired contract continues until a new one is negotiated.”
Both the current union president Jarvis Brown and town officials have said the no-layoff clause will expire on Dec. 31.
“I negotiated the clause and it was clear to all parties that it terminated with the expiration of the current agreement,” Town Attorney Leonard Genova said in a text message.
But former union president Robert Rauff Jr., who signed the 2012 amendment, said Genova and the current union president are wrong.
“That’s against the agreement and the Taylor law,” Rauff said of Genova’s comment. Rauff said the amendment was specifically worded to protect workers in case of budget problems.
The contract itself doesn’t contain a termination of the no-layoff clause, according to Joffe and James J. Brudney, a labor law professor at Fordham University Law School.
“Based on that contract language, and the statutory language of Taylor, I don’t see a sunset implication,” Brudney said in an email.
The 2012 amendment, which said the town cannot lay off workers for “any reason including economic and budgetary stringency,” meets a requirement established by state court rulings that job protection clauses must include explicit language accounting for budgetary problems, Joffe said.
“They’re [town officials are] going to argue they have the public duty . . . they’re watching the budget, but they still have to comply with New York’s labor law,” Joffe said.