The ante was upped when approximately 100 town employees, some wearing blue CSEA shirts, attended the Nov. 4 town board special meeting in a show of solidarity regarding stalled labor contract negotiations. Only one speaker signed up for the public portion of the meeting, which took place before a public budget hearing for the 2022 preliminary budget.
That speaker was John Kelly, unit president for CSEA, the union representing town workers.
“The presentation of the budget was no surprise to any of us. It was expected, anticipated, and unfortunately, it was without an agreement for the white-collar units. We have been working for 22 months with the management team in order to try to get a collective bargaining agreement that we believe is fair to us and fair to the town, and yet, still we have no deal,” he began.
Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town’s chief of operations, called Kelly’s speech disingenuous because it didn’t reveal the entire story.
“I think he was disingenuous with his comments. The fact is CSEA filed an impasse. They opted to go down that path, not the town,” he said.
Miner said an impasse, in this case, would signify that the union feels that despite best efforts, the two groups can’t come to a consensus. The impasse was filed to New York Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on Oct. 19.
Miner went on further to explain that he didn’t want to negotiate with the union through the press, something he’s said in the past as well. Kelly brought up those same sentiments during his three-minute speech.
“He [Miner] said he doesn’t want negotiations to play out in the public arena and I wholeheartedly agree. It would be great if the management team reached out to our labor relations specialist to see if we could continue towards an agreement,” said Kelly.
Kelly also reiterated points he made during an Oct. 21 board meeting. He spoke about raises the board received in 2020 and that town staff got in 2020 and 2021. He also mentioned the raises board members are slated to receive as per the preliminary 2022 budget.
Employee compensation makes up 26 percent of the 2022 budget and employee benefits 20 percent.
Kelly expressed happiness for blue-collar workers in the town’s highway department, who were able to come to a consensus in regard to their contract.
“I’m very happy for them, that they were able to get a collective bargaining agreement; however, we and our blue-collar brothers and sisters are still without a deal,” he said.
Kelly cited cost of living adjustments as one reason raises are especially important for town workers, many of whom live within the town’s limits. He also spoke of the $7.94 million set aside for snow removal in the 2022 budget and called the dollar amount too much.
“It’s not likely that we’ll need anywhere near the $8 million set aside in the snow account. At least not anytime soon,” he said.
Kelly said he calculated raises for the employees he’s representing to be less than half a million a year.
“I’ve calculated what a 2 percent raise would be for my members. Without the additional payroll taxes, because it’s difficult to include all of those, it’s less than $500,000 a year. When are you going to come to the realization that we need to be able to keep up with the cost of living for us to be able to afford to live here?” he asked.
Earlier in the same meeting, Tamara Branson, the town’s commissioner of finance, gave a PowerPoint presentation on the 2022 preliminary budget, which went from temporary to preliminary as it moves toward being adopted for the next fiscal year.
Branson mentioned that more than half of the town’s revenue comes from taxes, but that the town’s tax bill is less than other municipalities, like the county and school district.
“We like to remind residents that town taxes are the least part of the bill,” she said.
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