Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has started a mediation effort...

Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman has started a mediation effort with major county unions in hopes of reaching new labor contracts. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The administration of Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman on Thursday began a mediation effort with major public employee unions whose contracts with the county expired more than four years ago.

George Silver, a former deputy chief administrative judge for the New York City courts, is presiding over negotiations with top union leaders that began at county headquarters in Mineola on Thursday, Blakeman, a Republican, told Newsday.

The effort represents Blakeman's first attempt at resolving labor issues that troubled the administration of former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who lost to Blakeman in November.

The county's deals with the Police Benevolent Association, Civil Service Employees Association and the Correction Officers Benevolent Association expired at the end of 2017.

The Curran administration was able to strike new deals with the police Detectives Association Inc. and the Superior Officers Association.

The Curran administration agreed in principle to a new deal with PBA leaders, but union members rejected the proposal.

Blakeman likened the mediation effort to use of a "marriage counselor."

Blakeman said his "experience in the public and private sector has been that if you have an impasse, you try to resolve that impasse with an independent marriage counselor. I cannot understand why it's not in use more."

In a break with Curran administration practices, no officials from the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the county's financial control board, are involved in the mediation discussions.

In 2018, NIFA hired labor lawyer Gary Dellaverson to participate in union contract negotiations.

Union leaders and majority Republicans in the County Legislature objected to the presence of a NIFA labor lawyer at the bargaining table.

Union leaders argued NIFA was not a party to the proposed agreements, while GOP legislators criticized Dellaverson's fee of $25,000 per month.

Once the county and union leaders agree on a new contract, terms must be approved by union members and the County Legislature.

NIFA must sign off on a final deal.

NIFA chairman Adam Barsky declined to comment Thursday.

"We want to see if the administration can come to an understanding. Then of course, the legislature would have to review that and then NIFA would weigh in on it," Blakeman said.

Blakeman argued, "if everybody sticks to their position, and doesn't hear from somebody independent as to areas that they might not have considered, or areas where they may be unreasonable, it's always good to get an independent opinion. So that's why we agreed to mediation."

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