Health care is sticking point in sanitation negotiations
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In its submission to the fact-finder, the sanitary board argued that “it appears that Oceanside is virtually unique” in that workers do not pay part of their health care coverage. The district asked that all employees pay 15 percent of their health insurance costs.
The union countered by arguing that workers should continue to receive fully paid benefits from the district.
In his report, Ginsberg wrote, “It is reasonable for the district to propose employee contributions.” He recommended that employees contribute to the plan in steps until Dec. 31, when a new health care payment system would be put in place.
By Dec. 31, 2015, Ginsberg reasoned, workers should be paying a percentage of their health insurance coverage. Those who earn less than $30,000 would pay 2 percent; those earning between $30,000 and $50,000, 5 percent; those earning between $50,000 and $70,093, 10 percent; and those earning more than $70,093, 15 percent. Until then, they would contribute a portion of their raises towards their health care coverage.
That proposal was rejected by the workers. One, who asked to remain anonymous because he fears retribution for speaking out in opposition to the board, said, “We were given a copy of the report, and the majority of workers are 100 percent opposed to it. We are also displeased with Gatto and the union, and we plan to explore our options to get rid of that local.”
He added, “We’re wary of the fact-finder’s report. It’s very one-sided for the district, and I wouldn’t be surprised if district officials didn’t have some sort of influence on what was in the report. We’re not looking to get rich. We just want what’s fair.”
Gatto said that his union is working to get the best deal he can for the workers. When Ginsberg released his report, Gatto said that he told the union workers, “We’re not going to get a better deal anywhere else. I believe that we should take it.”
The new contract will affect drivers, helpers and laborers. The district currently employs 48 union members.
The sanitary district serves 13,000 households and about 950 businesses in Oceanside and small portions of Baldwin and East Rockaway. It has a budget of $8.65 million.