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Civil Service Union Approves a New, Five-Year Contract

Friday, January 6, 2017

This article by Ted Phillips originally appeared in Newsday. 

Oyster Bay’s unionized workforce voted Wednesday to approve a new five-year contract with the town.

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association Local 881 approved the proposal in a 507-335 vote, according to the union’s website. The approval is a reversal of a vote last month when an earlier version of the contract was defeated 427-417.

“It is a very good day in the town of Oyster Bay,” acting Town Supervisor Joseph Muscarella said. The new contract will provide the town with “financial stability for this year to move forward,” he said.

The revised contract added a fifth year to the original four-year proposal and an agreement not to privatize services provided by union members. It will also cut salaries by 2 percent for two years before returning to 2016 levels in the third year. Employees will get yearly raises of a minimum of 1.9 percent in the final two years. The contract also includes a no-layoff clause.

“They gave up something in earlier years to get something back in the later years,” Muscarella said.

Local union president Jarvis Brown said the changed vote was likely due to the revised proposal “giving more security to the job, extending our benefits, adding a fifth year of being able to work.”

In August, former Town Supervisor John Venditto said he would seek 150 layoffs if the union didn’t agree to concessions. Though Brown and town officials said that a no-layoff clause in the last contract wouldn’t protect workers if they didn’t agree to a new contract, Newsday previously reported that legal experts said it would.

Brown said that criticism from some union members over his handling of contract negotiations was something that any leader would have faced.“You can’t make everybody happy,” Brown said. Brown said that he wanted to prevent union member layoffs.“We don’t want anyone to lose jobs,” Brown said. “That’s what we based our negotiation on, everyone being made whole, keeping their jobs.”

The revised contract proposal included layoffs of certain part-time nonunion jobs that town records show cost more than $730,000 in wages in 2015.“We wanted the part-time jobs gone, if you were talking about laying people off,” Brown said.

Councilman Anthony Macagnone said an important change in the contract was that new employees would have to pay for part of their health care benefits.“The workforce has changed ever so much in the last 50 years and the town just can’t afford to give away all the luxuries anymore,” Macagnone said.

The contract proposal will go to town board for a vote Tuesday.