Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 05 October 2012 00:00
Mineola is currently in contract talks with village employees. The previous contract stipulations are still in effect, aligning with the Triborough Amendment in the Taylor Law. The law prohibits a public employer from changing any part of an expired labor agreement until a new one is reached.
According to village officials, the contract currently states that employees are supposed to attain vacation time awarded on their anniversary date, not Jan. 1. Therefore, officials said, the board is approving to abide by the details of the union contract.
Village Attorney John Spellman stated the union felt Mineola was in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, by “unilaterally changing vacation accrual, and the union demands that the Village of Mineola cease and desist this action and further demands that all affected members be made whole for all benefits lost as a result of this violation.”
The contract, according to Spellman, indicates the village cannot award vacation time based on an apparent “accounting practice error” that occurred, giving employees their vacation authorization on Jan. 1.
Mineola performed an audit and found the discrepancy and notified the UPSEU, a Ronkonkoma-based organization. The union did not return calls for comment.
The UPSEU could bring the issue to New York State’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to attempt to force the village’s hand. Mineola officials have not received notice if the union will pursue the PERB option.
“We cannot award vacation before it is earned,” Spellman stated. “As a result, we are going to correct the situation and follow the terms of the contract, which provide that vacation is awarded on anniversary dates.”
The village’s decision rested on following what was agreed upon when the current union contract was ratified. Village officials told the union that any employee who feels wronged, should notify Mineola.
“For example, if a person booked a cruise, counting on that much accumulated time, we could move some sick time over temporarily until the vacation time is earned,” said Spellman.
The union in turn, filed the grievance and Mineola officials needed to decide if the charge had any merit. Village counsel recommended that they follow what’s been set in the agreement between the employees and Mineola.
“By awarding vacation time on an anniversary date, we would be abiding by the contract that is in agreement with the union,” Mineola Mayor Strauss stated.
Trustee Larry Werther revealed that to his knowledge, there are a number of factors that come into play. According to Werther, this error occurred before any current bookkeeping employees were working for Mineola. Furthermore, Werther said, “if a village entity gives vacation time before they’re entitled to it, it is a gift of taxpayer money that is not permitted.
“The unfortunate part is, if we find out there is something going on that is costing taxpayer money, if we don’t work to correct, then the board becomes personally liable for those monies,” Werther continued. “So by enforcing the rules of the contract, we’re doing what’s fair. A reasonable effort has and is being made to take care of any employees…if they were prejudiced in any way.”