Town, union at impasse on new CSEA contract

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Southold’s CSEA employees, including staffers at the waste transfer center in Cutchogue, have been working without a contract since the beginning of the year.

Unable to come to terms on a new contract, Southold Town and its CSEA employes have both declared an impasse, which triggers the state Public Employees Relations Board’s involvement in an attempt to reach a settlement.

The town’s CSEA employees have been without a contract since the previous three-year agreement expired Dec. 31. Salaries were frozen in that contract’s first year, but the workers received annual increases of 4 percent for 2011 and 2012.

The union claims the town is responsible for the lack of a new contract.

“CSEA made a good faith effort to continue negotiations by offering to focus solely on the issues of health insurance, salary and job security but the town was not receptive to this overture,” said Richard Impagliazzo, a communications specialist for the CSEA Long Island Region.

The union decided to join the town in declaring an impasse because the town is demanding a 20 percent health insurance contribution while refusing to consider an annual percentage salary increase, Mr. Impagliazzo said.

Not unexpectedly, the town disagrees and says the union wants wage hikes the community cannot afford.

“The Town Board could not agree to the demands of the union’s leadership that called for annual raises of 3.75 percent each year for the next four years,” Supervisor Scott Russell said. “The Town Board not only found those demands to be unreasonable, but beyond the scope of rational bargaining.”

Wages and benefits are the single largest part of the town’s budget, accounting for 67.2 percent of the town’s $46.5 million spending plan. Salaries total $18.69 million and benefits, comprising primarily retirement and medical costs, add another $12.6 million, said town comptroller John Cushman.

In addition to base wages, town CSEA employees also receive up to five yearly step increases. On top of that, the previous contract, which still applies, includes longevity payments of from 5 percent to 8 percent a year, beginning when an employee reaches the 10-year mark, said Mr. Cushman.

Mr. Russell said the CSEA offered no concessions that would help fund the increases it seeks.

“In the absence of concessions, the burden of funding the increase falls squarely on the shoulders of taxpayers,” he said.

Both parties said they are prepared to return to the bargaining table.

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