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Mar 30, 2016 10:58 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Jay Schneiderman Explains Reasoning Behind CSEA Settlement

Mar 30, 2016 11:04 AM

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said this week that although he disagrees with some Town Board members about the execution of a settlement with the local Civil Service Employees Association, he believes the deal will correct “long-standing inequities” and, in the long run, have little financial burden on the town.

The board voted 3-2 on Tuesday, March 22, to authorize Mr. Schneiderman to sign the agreement, which he said he anticipated doing this week. But in order for the deal to be finalized, Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor must sign off on it as well.

The settlement with CSEA resulted from a claim filed with the Public Employee Relations Board, or PERB, against the town late last year that requested clarification on whether certain employee titles not previously included should be included in the CSEA bargaining unit. Mr. Schneiderman said that while trying to work out the claim with CSEA President Laura Smith, he realized there were other issues facing union workers that he wanted to address, particularly how much they contribute to health insurance.

The settlement would reduce employee contributions to individual or family health insurance plans from 20 percent to 10 percent, and would be applied to all union members hired on or after June 10, 2014. Those hired after 1995, but before 2014, will pay 10 percent toward family plans, and those on an individual plan will not contribute. As the contract stands now, union members still pay zero if on an individual health plan, and approximately 15 percent if they are on a family plan.

Employees hired prior to January 1, 1995, do not contribute to the cost of health insurance, which will continue to be the case if the settlement is finalized.

“I thought that was too high for those at the bottom. It was too big of a hit, when I had other employees who were making $90,000, but not paying anything,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We were having some hard times finding people for those lower-wage jobs [because of] the low salaries, plus the high contributions.”

Additionally, as per the terms of the settlement, if a full-time employee opts to reject or discontinue his or her health care coverage, the town must pay the employee 20 percent of the cost of the premium coverage per year. The supervisor explained that because the town’s health insurance policy is expensive—it costs about $25,000 for a family plan—he wanted to provide an incentive for employees to reject the plan.

The agreement also adds 34 administrative titles to the contract, a direct result of the PERB claim, although Mr. Schneiderman said CSEA did not get all of the titles it requested. It would also add six more titles to the list of employees on the step salary schedule, accelerate the pay raise schedules of employees on a step schedule from May 1 to March 1, and provide 30 minutes of overtime pay for emergency situations lasting longer than two hours.

“I was actually surprised that [some of the titles] weren’t in the union,” the supervisor said. “This is not a handout. To me, it corrects longstanding inequities and addresses basic cost-of-living concerns. I have high expectations of the workforce, and I have a very low tolerance for people who take advantage of the town. I will reward achievement and dedication, but at the same time I have a very low tolerance for abuse.”

In addition to Mr. Schneiderman, Town Board members John Bouvier and Julie Lofstad had approved authorizing the supervisor to sign the settlement. Both Republican Town Board members, Christine Scalera and Stan Glinka, however, had said they could not support it, as well as other resolutions relating to the terms of the settlement, because they viewed it as “a one-sided deal” that favors high-ranking union members and, in the end, will be unfair to taxpayers.

Ms. Scalera argued that the settlement would cost the town $500,000 in 2016 alone. This week, Mr. Schneiderman countered that claim, saying it would cost the town only about $100,000 this year, and then about $150,000 next year. “We’ll have to make budgetary adjustments, but we have a lot of revenues [coming] in,” he said. “Next year’s budget hasn’t been written yet, but I’m not anticipating increasing taxes next year. I have 16 years of not increasing property taxes [on my record]—I’m going to try to make it 17. We’ll be able to manage $150,000.

“The actual cost of this plan is roughly [the equivalent of] less than a cup of coffee per day per employee,” he added. “It’s not going to break the bank.”

Mr. Schneiderman said that he was not sure whether Mr. Gregor will sign the agreement. The highway superintendent said this week that he would not make that decision until he receives answers to a number of questions and concerns he raised in a three-page memo to the supervisor on March 21. One of the bigger concerns is that he believes the administrative titles being added to the union bargaining unit would result in the union being controlled by high-level clerical and management positions.

“I can’t really sign something if I don’t have all the answers to the puzzle. It looks like Christmas in March,” Mr. Gregor said. “I’m not going to sign anything until I get an answer to my questions. The devil’s in the details.”

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IMHO, there is no explanation for this. A resolution should not change a bargaining agreement. I wonder how many taxpayers in the Town of Southampton get free medical, pension and paid unused sick days when they retire, medical when they retire. The members of the union work hard but so does everyone else in the Town.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Mar 30, 16 9:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
I have an explanation...

Hows this for a theory. Jay made some campaign promises to get the Union vote.

Southampton Town Hall. Bought & Sold by this administration. More of the same in Town Hall. ATH 2.0. Jay and his 2 puppets, Julie & John.

Nothing more to see here, folks.
By Draggerman (942), Southampton on Mar 31, 16 7:07 AM
"Correct Long Standing Inequities"? You mean like the length of the contract and the agreements made inside of it? The union made a deal. The town made a deal. We should be following the contract in place not giving kick backs to Julie, John and Jay's political buddies. And the article talks about several employees getting put under a new step pay raise system where they will be making more. How much do you want to bet the president of the union is one of the people Jay is stepping up.
By Gillnetter (105), Hampton Bays on Mar 31, 16 3:39 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why must everyone be so negative? All town employees should be treated the same whether they are Union or not. I applaud the efforts of Jay for helping the least paid town employees make ends meet.
By Mom of 2 (12), flanders on Apr 1, 16 2:54 PM
It's not WHAT the new agreement is, it's HOW it came to be. The Union and the Town signed a contract with specific parameters. The Union decided they wanted to make some changes and asked for a clarification or whatever BS line they used and the Supervisor and his buddies said sure no problem!

The issue with this (and keep in mind I'm a proud Union member) is that it undermines the contract process and hits the taxpayer with a burden they were unaware of. The changes to the contract ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Apr 1, 16 2:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Southampton CSEA employees have instituted a PERB inquiry into improper classification of workers by the Town. Jay Schneiderman, recognizes that steps must be made to make a uniform agreement. These CSEA members are the lowest paid in Suffolk and Nassau Counties. It makes it extremely difficult to find personnel to replace retirees, given the cost of living on Long Island.
Yes, Alex Gregor should look at the ramifications with the town comptroller. In the end he will see how this revamping ...more
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Apr 1, 16 3:54 PM
IMHO the Supervisor made a serious error even entertaining the unions' complaint. He should have stuck to the contract in place and dealt with whatever comes up during negotiations. Face it, the union getting a REDUCTION in health insurance contributions is a terrible precedent to set when the rest of us are facing increasing premiums combined with decreased coverage, after all the Town workers are actually the taxpayers' employees.
By bigfresh (4595), north sea on Apr 1, 16 5:29 PM
I think this is a positive change for the Town and the Union because newer employees who usually get short changed by contract negotiations actually benefit with this settlement more than longer term employees. We'll never know but the PERB claim could have resulted in greater liability costs for the Town and taxpayers given the high cost of the 60 plus Administrative/nonunion positions, which in many respects are higher paid and have better benefits than union titles. Someone should look into ...more
By hunterman (2), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 1, 16 5:12 PM
I have been involved with several collective bargaining contracts. Collective bargaining is collective bargaining. You live with what you negotiate until the next contract. A union should not get to cherry pick when it applies and when it doesn't. Newer employees seem to get the short straw, but that is because those with seniority make the decision so they get what they want sometimes at the expense of the newer employees. That is not the fault of the Employer; that is the fault of the Union. ...more
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 1, 16 5:43 PM
I wonder why no one is discussing the resolution that lowered the all the non-union employees health insurance contribution from 20% to 10%. So no one here must have a problem with that, or care that there taxpayer money is being spent there. Just saying........
By Mom of 2 (12), flanders on Apr 1, 16 7:40 PM
It seemed to me that the agreement is to move titles into the bargaining agreement and then reduce the contributions. I am not sure how non-union titles would have anything to do with a union agreement. Non Union is generally not bargained for - you are just told what you are paying. It didn't see where the two were tied together.
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 1, 16 9:13 PM
As a taxpayer I'd rather my tax dollars go to town employees who live and work in the local area, who will spend those few extra bucks at local businesses and volunteer in the fire department, ambulance, PTA, or local organizations than waste it building another main street in Hampton Bays.
By hunterman (2), HAMPTON BAYS on Apr 1, 16 9:23 PM
Exactly my point. There is so much more to our town government than what appears on 27 east. There was a separate resolution the same night! The towns spends money everyday, study after study is funded, new equipment and vehicles are bought. There is a cost to running our great town to the standards the public wants. Lets remember that most town employees live in this town and pay taxes here too.
By Mom of 2 (12), flanders on Apr 1, 16 9:54 PM
Sadly, so many of the people that work full time in the Town struggle to pay their bills not just the Town employees - many with limited benefits. I agree that these are the people that work hardest for the Town by volunteering and giving back to the community. However, I disagree that any change to a bargaining contract should have been done by resolution. (And I agree that the Town wastes money on a bunch of other things)
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Apr 2, 16 8:24 AM
1 member liked this comment
Rumor has it that the Town's Labor Attorney advised that the Unions complaint would go no where. Perhaps some journalist might ask the Supervisor why he decided to ignore his Attorney's opinion regarding the settlement.

Give Alex Gregor credit for having principles that remain uncompromising, a rare trait among elected officials at any level of government and especially at the Town level.

This settlement qua capitulation is far more than an attempt to equalize treatment of Town ...more
By NTiger (543), Southampton on Apr 5, 16 9:10 PM