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2019: A puzzling time

Nassau CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta and union members

Nassau CSEA President Jerry Laricchiuta and union members behind him applaud as the contract is voted in as Nassau University Medical Center board member vote in favor of the Collective bargaining agreement withe hospital and the CSEA Union Local 830 on November 13, 2019. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez/Kendall Rodriguez

Daily Point

Such a bargain

As Nassau Interim Finance Authority chairman Adam Barsky considers imposing financial oversight on the fiscally floundering Nassau University Medical Center, the labor contract that the public-mission hospital reached with the Nassau Civil Service Employees Association in November is a key concern.

The county does not directly control the hospital, which is technically run by a public benefit corporation called Nu-Health. But the county does guarantee $188 million of its debt, and pays about $22 million a year in annual debt service on behalf of the hospital. 

The new contract grants the union’s 3,000 members an 8% raise over four years, a bump CSEA head Jerry Laricchiuta called “fair, but no big thing.” But several other clauses were large wins for workers: 

  • A no-layoff clause
  • No health-care contribution for current employees 
  • A big bump in the stipend employees get for not taking health care, from $500 annually to $3,000 for those forgoing individual coverage and from $2,000 annually to $5,000 for those forgoing family coverage.

Additionally, a close reading of the contract shows two clauses Laricchiuta has painted as concessions to management really aren’t. The contract lays out the possibility that the union’s coverage would shift from the state’s Empire Plan to another provider, if such a move saved 10% or more without diminishing benefits. But another clause states that if such savings are realized, the hospital will “upgrade its current dental plan to a CSEA Employee benefit Fund Plan of higher benefits, without cost to the employee.”

But the real humdinger is the clause “Should the parties be unable to accomplish at least a 10% decrease of what would be the cost for healthcare under the NYSHIP Empire Plan, then new hires as of January 1, 2021, may be required to contribute a maximum of 10% of premium towards single and family coverage.” 

“May” is not “shall,” which is a sturdier legal demand, and the contract contains no language that would actually force such contributions.

The contract matters because the hospital lost $46.6 million in 2018, even while it failed to pay many of its bills. But it also matters because all five of the county’s unions, including that CSEA shop, are out of contract and must negotiate new deals. And this extremely generous one makes it harder for Nassau, deficit-ridden and under a financial control period, to pen fiscally responsible deals.

— Lane Filler @lanefiller

Puzzle Point

The year that was 

We all thought 2018 was crazy. Turns out it was but a prelude to 2019. This themed puzzle hits some of the highlights and lowlights, and many points in between. Good luck. Answers will appear in Saturday's print edition. 

— Michael Dobie @mwdobie

Pointing Out

We invited two letter writers in. Listen to how it went ...

The fourth and final episode of the Long Island Divided podcast is available now. This episode features a conversation between two Long Islanders — one black, one white — with different reactions to Newsday's investigation into the practices of real estate agents. After Long Island Divided was published we opened up our Letters to the Editor section and a special voicemail hotline. Here’s what we heard from readers about their experiences of discrimination and life on Long Island from a black woman followed by a security guard in her own housing complex, to a white man whose neighbors didn’t want him to sell his house to black buyers.

Hosted by Mark Chiusano, a member of the Newsday editorial board. Produced by Amanda Fiscina.

Programming Point

Happy holidays to all

We hope you have a happy holiday spent with family and friends. The Point will return in the new year.