Buried very deep in the IBO Report, however, is an estimate of the cost of a retroactive UFT contract and the price of new contracts for educators as well as other municipal unions that would include modest 2% raises in the next round of bargaining. Here is what the IBO is saying:
Foremost among the reasons for caution are the expectations built into the budget plan with regard to a settlement of expired contracts with the city’s municipal unions. A costless settlement covering the years of expired contracts prior to 2014 may be more doable on paper than in practice. Depending on the terms of the settlements, the projected surplus could quickly evaporate. In May, IBO estimated that under one plausible scenario the cost of settlements with the unions could be $6.3 billion through 2014. In this scenario, the teacher and principal unions would get the same 4 percent raises other unions received in 2008-2010 and all the municipal unions would get 2 percent wage increases from the point their contracts expired in the years 2010-2013.
These IBO numbers are similar to the Comptroller's figures we cited last week here.
The city is expecting us to accept a pattern set by the State Civil Service Employees Association for a five year contract. The state pattern for this round is three years of zero raises followed by 2% increases in years four and five of a five year contract. The federal pattern is worse with four years of 0% increases followed by 1% for the postal employees that will probably be copied soon for other federal employees.
The case for decent increases for all of the unions is based upon large surpluses in the city budget. Outgoing mayor Bloomberg created those surpluses largely on the backs of the municipal employees. We will say that inflation is eroding our standard of living so we need these modest raises just to keep up. We will quite rightfully point out that the city fiscal situation is much better than the state and federal budget pictures that the city is using to say there is no money for retroactive increases. Since we are in stronger financial shape than the federal and state governments, we deserve real salary increases, particularly since all of us are now working under expired contracts.
The city will counter that NYC will only remain in solid shape financially if it holds the line on municipal employee salary increases. Mayor Elect Bill de Blasio will more than likely cry poverty and cite the IBO and Comptroller's reports. The city will then refer to wage freezes at the state and national level as indicative of very difficult times we have had to endure since the financial collapse and great recession of 2008.
Can NYC public sector unions take a stand against the state and national trend based on the city having more of an ability to pay? I would answer that question in the affirmative if we took a collective, militant approach and were ready to fight for that money with whatever means labor has at its disposal.
However, if that is not possible, then what about getting something back in exchange for taking less money? Here I would contend, as commenters here have already done on this blog, that we have some leverage. In exchange for accepting three years without a salary increase, state Civil Service Employees Association members received a job security clause in their agreement. Here is how their website put it:
The agreement includes provisions to keep CSEA-represented state employees on-the job delivering essential services to New Yorkers. It will rescind imminent plans to issue layoff notices to CSEA-represented employees included in the 9,800 reductions previously announced by the Cuomo administration. It also provides other job security assurances for the life of the contract.
In New York City half of the teachers are quitting within the first five years so we would not need anything akin to the job security clause that CSEA has. For our job security, we would require a total revamping of the teacher and principal evaluation systems. Some of these repairs may require state approval. Are the changes worth fighting for?
How about preferred placement for Absent Teacher Reserves? This was in our contract for teachers when schools were closed before the horrific 2005 giveback laden contract. Should we sacrifice some money to improve our working conditions? Can we have both? The DOE budget most certainly includes huge amounts of waste as Diane Ravitch's DOE insider reports.
These are conversations we should be having in the schools with our members each day.