The union representing Brookhaven Town white-collar workers plans to ask a mediator to step into contract negotiations, the union’s president said.
John Kelly said town hall staff, who have been working without a contract since the end of 2019, have worked through the COVID-19 pandemic without cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, often risking their health "to provide every service necessary to keep Brookhaven open."
Kelly said Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and the six town council members received raises last year and are scheduled to receive pay hikes ranging from 2% to 5% in 2022.
"However, we do not see any money budgeted for the COLA raises we are asking for," Kelly said during an Oct. 21 town board meeting. "We continue to work without a contract and for the first time in more than two decades, we are going to have to go to mediation to try to get a fair contract. This is not something that we do lightly.
"Today the white-collar unionized work force here at the Town of Brookhaven demand that raises are budgeted like you did for yourselves and that your representatives at the mediation table bargain in good faith. It is only fair, wouldn’t you agree?"
The union represents about 315 town employees who belong to the Civil Service Employees Association.
Brookhaven's white-collar work force includes clerical and office staff, building inspectors, fire marshals, law department investigators, assessors, information technology specialists and other positions.
In an interview, Brookhaven Chief of Operations Matt Miner said negotiations with white-collar workers and other unions have been delayed by the pandemic. He declined to discuss specifics of contract talks.
"We don’t negotiate through the media," Miner said. "Our doors are open. We hope [the] white-collar [unit] will come and sit at the table and negotiate in good faith with us."
Kelly could not be reached Tuesday for additional comment.
He told the town board the union was upset that seven white-collar workers were laid off in 2020, part of a larger staff downsizing imposed by Brookhaven to cut costs amid revenue losses.
Kelly said the union wasn't mollified when the seven employees were reinstated.
"The union is here to say that it never should have happened in the first place," he said.
Miner said town board members' raises were published in the tentative 2022 budget because state law requires that their salaries be disclosed.
"If and when we come into agreement with the white-collar unit, there will be a budget amendment that will reflect that," Miner said. "Until they come to terms with a contract, we’re not going to budget that because that will be speculative."
Miner said town officials are negotiating a new contract with blue-collar employees, and town highway workers are expected to vote soon on a proposed pact.