At least 14 Brookhaven Town employees could lose their jobs next year after unions representing hundreds of town workers rejected a salary deferment proposal that would have avoided layoffs, union and town officials said Monday.
The layoffs and a plan to leave dozens of vacant jobs unfilled come as town officials grapple with millions of dollars in lost revenue because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of Brookhaven unions representing blue-collar, white-collar and highway workers voted last Thursday to reject the town's wage deferral deal. Brookhaven officials had offered to deduct a portion of workers' weekly salaries to avoid layoffs. The deducted salaries would have totaled the equivalent of one week's pay and would have been paid when each employee retires, town and union officials said. Town officials said the deal would have saved Brookhaven $1.1 million to $1.2 million next year.
Union officials said the threat of layoffs following the vote was disheartening.
"We support that township," said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of CSEA's Long Island region, which includes Brookhaven employees. "We’ve had a very good relationship with [Supervisor] Ed Romaine [and] that board, so this is very disappointing that the politicians would want to solve their problems on the union's back. We don’t even understand the reason. … The workers were like, what did we do? What did we do to deserve this?"
Brookhaven chief of operations Matt Miner said the proposal rejected by the union included a promise not to impose layoffs next year. The town had struck deferred pay deals with the union in previous years, he said.
"They would have had greater protection because there would have been a no-layoff clause in the contract," Miner said.
Union officials could not say which jobs are targeted for layoffs.
The town board is scheduled to vote Thursday on Romaine's $307.1 million proposed 2021 budget. The budget would hike taxes by 1.56%, but preserve town programs and services.
The spending plan is based on estimates that Brookhaven could lose $13.9 million next year through reduced revenue, such as building permit fees and state aid.
The budget eliminates vacant positions such as tax cashiers, office assistants and building inspectors. Brookhaven officials said those cuts were necessary to hold down costs and reflected shifts to online services that made some jobs obsolete.
Laricchiuta pointed to $120 million in budget reserves that he said could be used to pay salaries.
"There’s no other town on Long Island that has a healthier budget [and] fund balance than Brookhaven," he said. "But they’re the only township calling for layoffs."
Miner disputed the fund balance figure, saying some town reserves are restricted to uses such as snow removal and the 2024 closure of the town landfill. He said the town has about $56 million in unrestricted reserve funds.