At a public meeting on Dec. 9, the Board of Commissioners of Oceanside’s special sanitation district No. 7 announced that contract negotiations with its employees were getting far enough along that the entire board would have to participate in the discussions.
Chairman John Mannone explained to the Herald in a phone interview, “We’ve been setting up meetings every two weeks,” between the board’s two-person personnel committee and the employees union representatives, Artie Schnabel and Dimitrios Misetzis. “It’s moving really slow, and getting more and more complicated.”
Mannone was unable to attend the Dec. 9 meeting, but Vice Chairman Patrick Doherty, of the personnel committee, reiterated that point. “It’s getting to the point,” he said, “where it doesn’t make sense to bring information from the meeting to the whole board and then back again to another meeting.”
The negotiations will take aim at what Mannone has called both “merit raises”, and “the patronage wage system” — a practice described in a 2014 state audit report as unauthorized deferred-compensation pay of more than $800,000.
Under the current contract, employees are guaranteed 2 percent increases per year, plus any “merit raises” that the board might seek to at its own sole discretion.
A March 2016 report — penned by Mannone — noted a significant pay disparity enabled by the board’s past raise practices, which left a supervisor making $10,000 less than the most senior sanitation workers, and $80,000 less than the highest paid supervisor.
According to public payroll figures from 2016, employees of Oceanside’s Sanitation District No. 7 were paid, on average, nearly $26,000 less than Town of Hempstead employees from several other districts.
The highest paid employee in Oceanside, former Supervisor Antonio Piscopo, who retired in July, was paid nearly $6,000 more than the highest paid Town of Hempstead employee, according to online records.
The report notes that while the board recognized the problem, it planned to remedy it by handing out “corrective” merit raises, a plan that Mannone wrote, “fails to address the underlying problem which created the unequal pay structure in the first place.”
While the board and its commissioners declined to provide specifics on the current contract negotiations, Mannone wrote in the 2016 report that the board should establish “a long-term goal of developing a standard pay structure for all employees’ position,” as well as “a single starting and top salary for each class of employee, and a periodic raise system.”
The current contract doesn’t expire until January 2021, but it can be superseded by a new contract if both parties agree to one.