UNIONDALE - The Nassau Interim Finance Authority has lifted the wage freeze that was affecting thousands of unionized county workers.

After meeting for several hours Friday, the NIFA board made its decision just before 2 a.m. Saturday, passing a series of resolutions to end the three-year wage freeze on four employee unions.

After more than three years, NIFA voiced a willingness in March to finally lift the wage freeze if the employee unions agreed to significant concessions that would save the county money. From there, the talks intensified, with marathon negotiation sessions between the county, the NIFA chairman and the unions. A tentative deal was eventually reached.

Representatives from the PBA, Detectives' Association and the CSEA agreed to concessions that for the first time would require new members to contribute toward their pension and health care plans. The county Legislature approved the agreement to lift the freeze, but NIFA got the final say.

CSEA and police union workers will get a 3.5 percent raise, retroactive to April of this year. There will be another increase in September of 2015.

PBA President James Carver calls the news a small victory. "Everybody realized that you can't freeze the workers forever. You can't balance the budget on the backs of the employees that make this county the great county it is," he said.

The wage thaw is good news for workers like fire dispatcher Craig Stewart, whose salary has stayed stagnant for three years. The Westbury man works four jobs to support his family.

"The dream to live on Long Island -- you can't survive on a $33,000 a year job," he says, adding that the deal will help out his co-workers. "It's not where we were supposed to be, but beggers can't be choosers at this point."

The unions are still in a legal fight with NIFA and the county for wages lost during the three-year freeze.