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Aug 23, 2011 11:25 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton Town And Union Reach Impasse

Aug 23, 2011 5:02 PM

East Hampton Town officials and municipal employees have reached an impasse in negotiations over a new union contract, and have called in an outside arbitrator, officials said last week.

Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and leaders of the local branch of the Civil Service Employees Association union have been in negotiations since March, but have not been able to agree on a potential wage freeze, union officials said. The union’s last 5-year contract expired in December, but employees have continued to work under the terms of the previous contract since then.

Sergio Diaz, a CSEA labor relations specialist, said Mr. Wilkinson asked for a freeze on wages in the next contract, but refused to guarantee that no layoffs would occur.

Mr. Wilkinson did not return calls seeking comment last week or this week. Town Budget Officer Len Bernard said he could not speak in detail about the negotiations, but said the town had to take into account other contracts that were being struck with public employees throughout the region.

“You can’t ignore what’s going on around you,” he said. 
“You can’t ignore what happened in Riverhead, you can’t ignore what happened in the state, you can’t ignore what happened even in some of 
the school districts, where teachers have put off pay increases. You can’t just operate in a vacuum.”

Union leaders said negotiations broke down after four or five sessions in recent months. An arbitrator will now be assigned by the New York State Public Employees Relations Board to mediate the talks, although his or her input will not be binding.

In the negotiations, Mr. 
Wilkinson cited recent concessions by state employees, union leaders said. In the state contract, which was ratified on 
August 15, the CSEA conceded to a three-year wage freeze and Governor Andrew Cuomo agreed to not hold broad layoffs.

But the local branch of the union is resisting a similar wage freeze without a guarantee of job security.

“We’re not getting any guarantee of no layoffs, so it’s hard to accept any zeros,” said town CSEA President Heath Liebman. “It’s a little lacking in comparison, to say the least.”

Mr. Liebman also said the union has offered a “tremendous amount of concessions,” but said he could not go into further detail about the negotiations.

Mr. Diaz said he felt Mr. Wilkinson’s proposal was 
unfair because the supervisor agreed to annual raises of between 2 and 3 percent for police officers in a 5-year contract 
with the Police Benevolent Association that was signed last year.

“It’s our contention that Supervisor Wilkinson had no problem with giving the police department and dispatchers a nice increase,” he said. “Maybe if he was better friends with us, like he is with the police chief, we would have gotten a nice contract too.”

Mr. Bernard said the PBA contract was negotiated a year and a half ago, pointing to the fact that public employees in the region have accepted greater concessions since then.

The local branch of the CSEA is made up of about 200 non-police employees, according to Mr. Liebman.

East Hampton Town has been trimming personnel costs in an effort to shrink budgets and help pay down a $27 million deficit. The town enticed 33 employees to retire by offering an incentive last year, left an additional 18 positions unfilled, and laid off two more employees this year.

But Mr. Liebman said he would not accept the deficit as a justification for the town to demand concessions, saying the town has a surplus in the current budget and is successfully paying off its debt.

Mr. Bernard said the arbitrator will likely take recent public employee contracts into account before making recommendations.

“They’ll look at the situation in the state, in the towns,” he said. “And we’ll go from there.”

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What is the union expecting? They get 1 percent automatically - so that means a zero percent increase is actually a 1 percent increase and they do not pay anything towards their health insurance which according to my friend who is a town employee cost the taxpayer almost $20,000 per year. In New Jersey my cousin told me government employees are paying from 20 percent to 60 percent of the health insurance cost depending on your salary level. I think teachers in Springs pay part of their health ...more
By factsandtruth (42), East Hampton on Aug 24, 11 7:50 PM
exactly how does the union "get one percent automatically"?? that would have to be in the contract--would that be in the new contract?? im confused. also in other towns CSEA workers pay a percentage of health insurance costs- maybe this is one of the concessions the union is offering
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Aug 25, 11 12:41 PM
Can not compare town union employees to PD -- apples and oranges - asking for an 11% increase ? I don't care over HOW many years or the back and forth debate over the devil in the details . . . the Town employees are lucky to have jobs . . . and many work two of them . . . HELLOOOOO - so does everyone else who is working and "working class" here - although it is now out of the hands of the Board . . . hopefully the folks who work for "us" realize "we" may not be able to afford "them" and agree ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Aug 26, 11 11:37 PM
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