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Amityville must give village police $120G in back pay

Amityville Village will pay about $120,000 in back pay to its police officers after an arbitrator sided with the officers’ union in a case involving a contested premium paid for overnight shifts.

The Village Board last June reduced the pay, a 12 percent premium over regular wages known as “night differential,” to 8 percent. This cut night pay from about $15,000 per officer per year, to $10,000. The lower amount was based on the village’s assertion that the officers, who work 12-hour tours, should only earn elevated night pay for hours actually worked at night.

Labor arbitrator Robert L. Douglas called that an “appealing and quite tempting intuitive argument” that nevertheless violated the village’s contract with the PBA, which makes no provision for the unilateral imposition of an adjustment to pay.

“This landmark decision reaffirms the Amityville PBA’s position that the Board of Trustees — specifically Mayor [James] Wandell, Trustee [Jessica] Bernius and Chief Budget Officer [Nick] LaLota — acted frivolously and without merit by intentionally violating the clear language of the collective bargaining agreement,” PBA president Chris Mullin said in a statement released by a representative.

The decision proves, he continued, that “those who make the laws must also abide by them.”

LaLota had anticipated savings of about $100,000 a year from the night differential reductions, which affected about 19 patrolmen and two sergeants.

Instead, the village must now make the officers whole and restore the 12 percent premium. The arbitrator ruled that the village will not have to pay the 9 percent interest the PBA had also requested.

The decision, first reported last week by the Amityville Record, marks a setback for the Wandell administration and in particular for LaLota, who has repeatedly said that the union must accept cuts to police pay to ensure Amityville’s fiscal stability in coming years.

“Common sense and the English language were surely on our side,” LaLota said, adding that the village will revisit the night differential issue in 2018 contract negotiations with the union.

In the meantime, he said, the village is moving ahead with purchase of new police cruisers and weapons and the hiring of new officers.

“These are steps we hope the union will recognize as positive for public safety,” he said.

LaLota said he was hopeful that resolution of the case will lead to better relations between the board and the union, but fellow trustee Dennis Siry discounted that possibility.

“Because of the way they treated the cops and talked to them in the beginning . . . it’s going to be a hard fence to mend,” he said.

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