January 5, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
CSEA Local 830 represents workers in over 800 titles encompassing laborers, health educators, case workers and 911 operators, among others, in Nassau County. The union used to represent about 5,800 members, but because the County Executive, Edward Mangano, demanded $150 million in union concessions to satisfy the 2012 Budget approved by the County Legislature, the local’s membership has dropped to about 5,500.
Approximately 265 members were recently laid off, on top of the 128 members laid off last June. According to Ryan Mulholland, spokesman for Local 830, said the bulk of the members let go were social service, probation and public works workers. More layoffs could be forthcoming though, as the County is seeking another round of concessions of $75 million by February 1.
Mulholland explained that CSEA’s share of the $150 million worth of concessions is $60 million, while the County’s other unions (the PBA, Sheriff Officers Association, Detectives Association and Superior Officers Association) are responsible for $90 million.
He noted that Mangano wanted a 20 percent pay cut per employee or a 25 percent contribution per employee to finance health care benefits. But the union couldn’t accept the pay cuts. “A lot of our members earn between $37,000 and $40,000 annually. An $8,000 pay cut for our members would have been too big a hit,” said Mulholland.
To prevent additional layoffs, the union agreed on December 19 to an Early Separation Incentive. With only a 9-day window, 118 members voluntarily accepted the buyout, rewarding them $1,000 for each year of service with the County.
The union is hopeful that the incentive package will forestall layoffs in February. “The incentive will bring some people back from recent layoffs, although we can’t guarantee that. But in the end, the incentive will save jobs,” Mulholland said.
But with the County seeking an additional $75 million by February 1, the unions, if not Local 830, could be targeted for drastic cuts.
Mulholland said the problem with Mangano’s approach to balance the 2012 Budget is that it doesn’t reflect shared pain. “He could have looked to his own staff, including commissioners, who he appoints directly. There are 11 legislative assistants, costing the county approximately $857,000, who were originally slated to be laid off, but they were spared.”
Mulholland also noted that the County could have done more to reduce waste. There are currently unused phone lines the County is still paying $1.2 million. The County could have saved $2.5 million on a referendum vote for a new Nassau Coliseum arena by holding the vote for free on Election Day, and the County is willing to spend upwards of $20 million for artificial recreational fields.
Katie Grilli-Robles, spokeswoman for Nassau County, said the union layoffs were necessary because the unions did not provide the concessions needed to protect residents from a tax hike and live within the 2012 Budget. “The County’s workforce represents over 50 percent of the County’s budget and there were simply no other choices to reduce spending and prevent tax hikes without union concessions.”
In response to the union’s claim that the County could have done more to reduce wasteful spending, Grilli-Robles said the claim is absurd. “The phone lines are being reduced to save money. The unions are simply hiding from the real facts.”
According to Mulholland, if the County had raised taxes by just a quarter for each Nassau County household, the layoffs could have been avoided. But Mangano, taking his no-tax cue from the Republican leadership in both Nassau and Washington, wouldn’t entertain the idea.
The main issues for CSEA Local 830 in 2012 will be getting more people back to work as soon as possible and staving off future layoffs, as well as undoing the wage freezes imposed by the Nassau Interim Finance Authority with a plan for “structural savings,” but the authority has yet to vote on the union’s proposal.
Asked if the recent privatization of bus services by a French-based company concerned the union, Mulholland said, “It has raised eyebrows.”
Grilli-Robles, the County’s spokeswoman, in response to whether the County will seek to privatize additional public services, said “the County will consider all options that reduce the burden placed on Nassau taxpayers.” She cited how a public-private partnership last year helped save taxpayers nearly $5 million annually by reducing medical care for inmates at the County jail.