The leaders of Southampton Town’s largest employees’ union are expected to continue their contract battle with Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, a decision that could end up costing the town thousands in legal fees and still might not be resolved before the accord expires at the end of 2017.
According to Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman, the Civil Service Employees Association will appeal a court decision that determined that Mr. Gregor’s signature was required for contracts to be valid—but only ones affecting Highway Department workers. Of about 298 employees in the CSEA bargaining unit, approximately 59 work under Mr. Gregor.
The supervisor also said that, in all likelihood, a ruling on the appeal most likely will not be handed down before the union’s current four-year contract expires at the end of the year. “By the time this gets decided, the contract will probably be done,” he said.
Mr. Gregor did not return calls this week.
Union officials, meanwhile, said this week that they will continue the appeal process.
“We’re disappointed about the outcome, but will continue to try to work with Southampton officials to reach a mutually beneficial agreement,” said Wendi Bowie, a communications specialist for the Long Island region of the CSEA, when asked to comment on the court decision.
The dispute between the union and the superintendent began last summer after Mr. Gregor refused to sign a settlement between the town and the union to add 34 administrative titles to the existing union contract, approve raises for six positions, accelerate pay raise schedules for those employees and reduce health insurance contributions for some employees, among other adjustments. At the time he said he saw the settlement agreement as a “giveaway” that did not fairly represent taxpayers’ interests.
Last month, Mr. Schneiderman said all town workers had begun receiving the promised benefits of the settlement—with the exception of those in the Highway Department.
According to Southampton Town Attorney James Burke, Mr. Gregor spent approximately $23,000 last year on his legal fees, a figure that does not include costs incurred by the town.
Recently, Mr. Gregor submitted a request to the Town Board for an additional $20,000 to cover his anticipated legal fees for 2017, although Mr. Schneiderman said the town estimates that cost to be closer to $10,000.
“It is likely there will additional bills this year, unless he signs,” Mr. Schneiderman said at last week’s work session. “My understanding is the CSEA will drop the appeal if he signs. If he doesn’t sign, it goes on—and we’ll have to defend him.”
According to Mr. Schneiderman, last month Mr. Gregor offered a compromise: He requested permission to hire 10 additional part-time staffers for the winter months in exchange for him signing the agreement. The supervisor noted that Laura Smith, president of the town worker’s union, rejected the proposal.