Nassau County officials issued 262 pink slips to county workers Thursday and demoted 137 others despite last-minute efforts to lessen the blow by offering incentives for employees to leave on their own.
Labor leaders called it a dark day for the county. County Executive Ed Mangano blamed the unions for not offering enough concessions. About 100 workers are estimated to have taken the buyouts.
“This is supposed to be one of the greatest counties in the country,” Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association Nassau Local 830—the county’s largest union—told reporters in his Mineola office Thursday. “Today I call Nassau County the embarrassment of New York State.”
The layoffs and demotions are occurring in most of the 40 departments that employ that union’s workers. Laricchiuta maintained that a small tax increase could have averted the layoffs but his union membership never would have voted to ratify a pay cut, which was the alternative.
Mangano issued the layoffs—including another 128 this summer—and has been pushing to privatize various county services to close a projected $310 million budget gap next year. A state fiscal watchdog also declared a financial crisis, froze county wages and took control of the county budget earlier this year.
“While it pains me to see anyone lose their job, I informed Nassau’s unions months ago that layoffs would occur if they did not provide the concessions needed to protect residents from a tax hike and live within the dollars provided to us for the 2012 budget,” Mangano said in a statement emailed by one of his spokeswomen.
Representatives of the county’s four police unions said none of their members were laid off or demoted.
“I don’t believe we are going to be impacted by layoffs, however, we continue to work with the county,” said James Carver, president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. He said some police were called to county offices to help keep the peace when the pink slips were issued.
Laricchiuta maintained that with the layoffs this week, his union has already met Mangano’s demands. But Mangano has threatened another round of layoffs in February if the unions sue to block furloughs that are planned for next year.
Carver balked when reminded of that threat and noted that his union’s lawyers are standing by if and when furloughs are attempted. “You don’t threaten to take away our constitutional right to go to court,” he said.