Town, civil servants look to third party for help

Southold Town and its civil service employees are hoping recommendations from a third party will help move two-year contract negotiations forward. 

The process of renewing the union’s contract has dragged on, with little compromise on either side, since the last agreement expired in December 2012, said Southold Civil Service Employees Association president Tom Skabry.

The union’s last public protest was in November, after the Town Board unanimously passed a $41.6 million 2014 budget that included pay raises for elected officials — including a 10 percent raise for Supervisor Scott Russell — while contract talks with the union were at an impasse. Following that, both parties began the “fact finding” process, Mr. Skabry said.

That step is taken, he said, when the parties are unable to achieve agreement on outstanding issues.

Mr. Skabry, who complained in November the board was dragging its feet on contract negotiations, said salaries, job security and health insurance are the three biggest areas of contention.

During the fact-finding process, an outside consultant is hired to compile and consider each side’s proposals and arguments before presenting a final recommendation on how to move forward with contract negotiations. The recommendations are expected to be released at the end of August, but none of the findings are binding, said Mr. Russell, who declined to comment further about the negotiations.

Mr. Skabry said Southold workers, who have been working under the terms of the expired contract, can’t afford to wait much longer for a new agreement.

“The price of home heating oil is going through the roof, the price at the pump is going through the roof, the price of basic foods is extremely expensive,” he said. “Our people are finding it harder and harder to maintain their standard of living on a salary that hasn’t increased since December 2012.”

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