Local working for fairness as county continues to face fiscal struggles

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MINEOLA — CSEA Nassau County Local leaders are working to thaw out the freezing of Nassau County workers’ longevity pay.

In 2011, Nassau County and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA), a control board that oversees the county’s finances, froze longevity payments for members due to the county’s financial constraints.

Knowing that CSEA members deserve to be compensated for their hard work and need to keep up with the cost of living, local officers negotiated an agreement with the county that the pay freeze would be lifted in 2014.

“According to the agreement, our longevity and educational money would be left to the side and we would have to negotiate that separately or win it in court,” said Nassau County Local President Jerry Laricchiuta. “That NIFA agreement expires on December 31, 2017.”

“It’s our contention that starting in 2018, the wage freeze is lifted and we go back to the old contract,” said Laricchiuta. “It states in the agreement that it was never Nassau County’s intention to freeze longevity pay indefinitely.”

A specific issue that NIFA and the county raised concerns about is step increases. CSEA representatives argued that once the old agreement expires in 2018, members will be put into the proper step. Therefore, members should be given longevity payments to put their salary where it would have been had there never been a freeze.
CSEA Nassau County Local officials note that while Nassau County officials initially agreed with CSEA’s sentiment, NIFA did not.

The total amount of longevity pay that the county owes CSEA is $10 million. Because that is such a large amount of money, CSEA devised a payment schedule for the county.

“We told them that in year one, instead of paying us in one lump sum, they could give us the frozen amount on March 31,” said Laricchiuta. “Then when payments are made on April 1 and July 1, give us half of the difference with the other half going into a bank for the employee, which the worker would receive once their relationship with the county dissolves.”

That agreement would save the county $5 million.

On Sept. 15, CSEA, along with four other major unions, held a 12-hour meeting with Nassau County to work out the details of how to unfreeze the longevity pay. By that evening, all parties in attendance signed off on the agreement.

“When we left that meeting, we thought that everything was worked out,” said Laricchiuta. “Then, 10 days later, we received a letter from the county attorney that said the language is no good.”

“When we were in that room, not only did he approve the language, he wrote some of it,” said Laricchiuta.
In spite of the county’s backpeddling, the Nassau local is confident that the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that the county signed will hold up with a binding arbitrator.

The arbitrator will also decide if the MOA needs to be approved by NIFA, after reviewing all of the agreements that CSEA has with Nassau County.

As far as the Nassau Local is concerned, there is only one way for Nassau County to dig itself out of its financial hole.

“If this county ever wants to balance its budget, it’s going to have to get rid of NIFA,” said Laricchiuta. “The accounting rules NIFA uses to prepare and standardize financial statements are far more intense than what other municipalities use.”

“We’re going to have to appeal to Governor Cuomo to tell NIFA to knock it off and stop making things more difficult than they have to be,” said Laricchiuta.

— Wendi Bowie

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Wendi Bowie

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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