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Huntington workers union OKs 5-year pact

Huntington's white-collar workers union has approved a five-year contract with the town that calls for a pay freeze for two years and requires all employees to contribute to their health care costs. The town board must approve the terms.

Total givebacks in the agreement, retroactive to Jan. 1, amount to $1.2 million, town and union officials said.

"We're extremely unhappy with this contract," said Rich Popkin, president of Huntington's Civil Service Employees Association unit. "We're taking it on the chin. We're the smallest segment of the town, with workers who make 36, 38, 40 maybe up to 50 thousand if they have been here a long time. But to save jobs, that's the only reason we approved this."

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone had threatened as many as 15 layoffs in his 2013 budget proposal.

The agreement includes 2.75 percent increases for the three years after the pay freeze and eligible employees will get a step increase at the end of the contract. Also, all members will pay 10 percent into their health care costs starting in 2013. Previously, only members hired after April 7, 2007, were required to pay into health care costs. Members also will forego 10 days of pay in 2013, which will be paid out upon retirement.

The union's nearly 200 workers -- with titles such as clerk typist and account clerk -- will no longer be paid out for up to three unused personal days for 2013, and a health care buyout option will be reduced by half.

Petrone said it's about shared sacrifice.

"When you look at what all the other employees have given over the years from blue collar, to appointees, the electeds, it all averages out in terms of everyone giving," he said. "What they have agreed to makes it so nobody loses their job. If the contract did not go, there would have been layoffs."

In recent years, other town employees have taken salary freezes and/or increased their contributions to health care, Petrone said.

Popkin said the contract calls for no layoffs although two of his members were let go last week, before the unit ratified the contract Thursday. The town board will vote on the contract at its Dec. 18 meeting.

In addition to the two union employees laid off -- handicapped services coordinator Barbara LaMonica and head of the minority affairs division Denise L. Williams -- the town also let go community development agency director Doug Aloise, an appointed official. The layoffs are effective at the end of the year. Petrone said he reorganized functions and responsibilities in those three departments.

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