WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Saying it would unnecessarily increase the burden on taxpayers and likely force tuition hikes for students, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has rejected a proposed labor contract reached by the Board of Trustees of Westchester Community College and the school's Civil Service Employees Association union.
Astorino's opposition to the tentative agreement stems from the fact it more than doubles the pay increases recommended by the neutral fact-finder brought in by the CSEA to assist in resolving a bargaining impasse with the members of the CSEA who work directly for the county.
If the terms of the Westchester Community College contract were applied to the county's CSEA members, the bill to taxpayers for just the current year, 2015, would be an additional $36 million; compared to $14 million under the fact-finder's recommendation, Astorino said.
"The fundamental flaw in this contract is that it grants millions of dollars in retroactive pay increases to employees for years they were receiving millions of dollars in free health care," Astorino said. "At a time when taxpayers and students are both struggling, this kind of deal cannot be justified."
The tentative agreement approved by the Board of Westchester Community College and CSEA leaders covers Jan. 1, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2018 and calls for general wage increases for 300 CSEA members totaling seven percent for the first four years, in addition to longevity payments. In the final two years, employees would get wage increase of $625 per year, as well as lump sum payments of $1,000 per year.
In contrast, the fact-finder involved in the negotiations with the county CSEA recommended wage freezes for the years 2012 and 2013, with two percent wage increases for 2014 and 2015, as well additional concessions to help offset some of the costs of the proposed agreement.
Patrick Hennessy, college relations director of Westchester Community College said in a statement: "There are many complicated factors involved in contract negotiations. We collaborated with the County during this process. Our analysis did not indicate the need for a tuition increase for our students. We look forward to further discussion with our employees and all parties on behalf of the County and the college."
Lack of meaningful future health care contributions was another budget buster cited by Astorino. Since coming into office, Astorino has negotiated health care contributions for seven of the county's eight unions, the only exception being CSEA.
Astorino said the terms of the contract put at risk the county's ability to hold the line on tuition increases for Westchester Community College's 24,000 students.
"While I continue to appreciate the services provided by CSEA members at Westchester Community College and your Administration's interest in reaching an agreement, the proposal in its current form is unaffordable for County residents, unfair to other County employees and almost certainly guarantees the need to raise tuition for students," Astorino wrote in a letter to Dr. Belinda Miles, the president of Westchester Community College. "For these reasons, I am rejecting this agreement and urge the parties to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a contract that's fair to all County employees and stakeholders."
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