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West Babylon contract offers pay raises, retirement boost


ometimes good things really do come to those who wait. After a year of stalled contract negotiations, the West Babylon Teachers Association in Suffolk County on Long Island bargained a new contract this summer that provides members with raises, a boost in future retirement earnings and several other long-sought benefits.

The tide turned for the local with the help of NYSUT labor relations specialist William Oquendo. Knowing the local had stalemated with the district over longevity pay raises, he suggested a different approach. Instead of increasing the value of each longevity step, how about adding additional steps to the overall salary schedule?

The move was a major win for the local, boosting members’ future lifetime pension earnings by allowing them to retire at a higher Final Average Salary.

“For teachers, we negotiated a move from a 22- to a 30-step salary schedule with a 1.5 percent raise in years two, three and four of the four-year contract,” said Oquendo, explaining that the change increases the top salary step by nearly $30,000. “This would raise someone’s pension by over $18,000 annually, for life.”

Group photo of the West Babylon TA negotiating team


The West Babylon TA negotiating team won long-sought improvements in their new contract. From left, James Fulton, Jennifer Autera, Linda Kronenbitter, WBTA President Robert Dell’Isola, Stacey Bushinski and Brad Cammarano.
“For nurses, who follow a different salary schedule than teachers … we eliminated the first five steps of their schedule, starting them on step six and stretching their salary schedule from eight years to 15 years,” said West Babylon TA President Robert Dell’Isola, explaining that nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and several other bargaining unit titles will also receive substantial longevity increases and 2.5 percent salary increases each year of the contract.

Codifying the length of a school day was another big win, taking the guesswork out of when members’ workdays end. “Lots of elementary teachers would get stuck, it [dismissal time] was a big question mark,” said Dell’Isola. “When buses ran late — were they expected to stay? It was a big bone of contention between us and the district.”

Under the new contract the elementary school day is 6 hours and 37 minutes, and the middle and high school day is 7 hours and 11 minutes. Having a defined day means that anything above and beyond those hours earns members extra pay. The local also won a four-year 2.5 percent stipend increase, and a boost in post-season pay for extracurricular instruction. Previously, members who coached teams into playoffs received only $100 per event for extra games, making a winning season bittersweet. “Members will now get a week’s salary for those events,” said Dell’Isola.

Dell’Isola and his fellow members are pleased with the agreement, with over 90 percent of the local voting yes. “All the percent raises in the world would not have gotten us where we are; it was an affordable way for the district to get us what we wanted,” said Dell’Isola who thanked the negotiating team and Oquendo for their hard work. “I learned a lot from William, and I couldn’t have done it without my fellow negotiating team members.”