The Town Board and the Shelter Island PBA on Thursday agreed to a three-year contract that grants 2-percent pay raises in 2012, 2013 and 2014 plus annual 1-percent longevity pay hikes for police who qualify.
News of the agreement came at Thursday’s meeting of the Town Board — which was held as day early because of the Good Friday and Passover holidays — when the Town Board voted 4-1, with Councilman Paul Shepherd opposed, to ratify a stipulation of agreement that the two sides had signed shortly before the meeting and to authorize the supervisor to execute the contract.
Mr. Shepherd voted “no,” he explained, to protest the Town Board’s requirement that new, non-union employees pay 25 percent of their health insurance premiums while the town’s police officers are not required to pay any part of their health insurance costs. Other union employees are required to pay a smaller percentages, depending on the date they were hired.
The councilman, who has made an issue of the employee payments for health care since his first weeks on the board in January, thanked the PBA “for not engaging in a cynical bargaining strategy that made it easy for the board” and the union to reach an agreement. He said the agreement was “reasonable” but “not necessarily fair.” He said that union employees “with access to binding arbitration” had an advantage over those who didn’t.
He charged the Town Board with having failed to show leadership on the issue. He later explained in an interview that he felt the other board members, three of whom are veterans who were elected before the current payment policy was adopted by the Town Board, should voluntarily pay a 25-percent share of their coverage. The exception is Supervisor Jim Dougherty, who joined the board in 2008, when 15-percent was the required employee share for health coverage.
Mr. Shepherd himself, as a new town employee, is required to pay 25 percent of his premiums, if he chooses to take the coverage. He said he would be making a decision in the next few days whether or not to do that. If he does not, he will qualify for a payment in lieu of coverage.
Except for Mr. Shepherd’s comments, there was no discussion of the new contract agreement.
Supervisor Dougherty, who negotiated the deal for the town, announced its terms in an email he sent soon after Thursday’s meeting.
“I’m happy to announce the Town and PBA have signed a stipulation of agreement today agreeing to terms for a three year contract expiring December 31, 2014,” he wrote. “The agreement will call for a 2-percent annual compensation increase (down from the 3-percent annual increase awarded for the three years 2009 through 2011 by the arbitrator in the 2011 compulsory arbitration). The only other compensation or benefit increase is a 1-percent increase in longevity payments for those policemen qualifying. We are fortunate with the dedication and service we receive from our policemen and I and my Town Board colleagues feel we have recognized this fairly in the current economic climate.”
The supervisor said in an interview that the town had attempted to make health-care contributions for the PBA a negotiating point during the binding arbitration process on the last contract. The arbitrary rejected the idea, he said. According to the supervisor, the PBA rejected it as well during the latest contract talks.