Friday, December 20, 2013


Outgoing Comptroller John Liu's final report on city finances includes a section on labor costs (see below in italics).  I urge everybody to read the municipal labor portion closely. According to the report, revenue is coming in well but every municipal union is working under an expired contract.  The situation for educators is worse than for other unions because we are one round behind everyone else.

The pattern established with other unions back in 2008 - mentioned multiple times on this blog - is a 4% salary increase in year one + a 4% raise in year two without givebacks.  According to Liu, paying teachers and administrators that money retroactively will cost the city a whopping $3.5 billion in this fiscal year and  $900 million annually after that. (Why will it cost so much? Please read our explanation here.)  The city might swallow most of these costs (they may defer the retroactive portion) if we accept the city's offer to freeze wages for the following three years.

The city proposal for all of the unions in the next round of bargaining is to offer a contract based on the pattern set by New York State and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA).  CSEA agreed to a five year deal calling for 0% in year one followed by 0%  in year two and then 0% in year three followed by 2% in year four and another 2% in year five.  That settlement was a very bitter pill to swallow for state workers.

Will a five year contract that includes three years of a wage freeze fly with teachers and other city workers?

I believe the answer is probably yes because all of us have been working without contracts for so long that putting any raise in front of us will be something most workers will jump at and take.  If there was a grand bargain to settle both contracts at once, teachers would be looking at seven years.  The last UFT salary increase was in 2008!  Even if we obtained the 4 + 4 that everyone else in the city's workforce received, that would cover 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.  2011-2012, 2012-2013 and the current 2013-2014 school year would be our three straight years without an increase if we were to follow the state pattern for the next round.

The key is getting the retroactive money because that would increase our salaries for 2009-2011, which would then compound for the subsequent years.  There is talk of a cash payment instead of retroactive increases.  Such a deal would cost UFT members a huge amount of money. Would teachers accept it?

Staying on pace with inflation looks like a pipe dream.  Getting what every other city worker received is also not guaranteed but we should fight for these things. I can find plenty of savings in the DOE budget as I'm sure most of you could too.

Here is the part of the Comptroller's Report that deals with the municipal unions:

The City’s labor contracts with its major municipal unions have expired and members are currently working under expired contracts. The City has proposed terms for a five-year contract for each union which mirrors the 2011 five-year agreement between New York State and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA). That agreement included zero wage increases in the first three years and annual raises of 2.0 percent in the last two years of the contract. However, the City’s labor reserve reflects the cost of only 1.25 percent annual wage increases beginning in the fourth year of the current round of collective bargaining. A 2.0 percent wage increase in each of the last two years of a five-year contract will cost the City an additional $111 million, including retroactive cost, in FY 2014, $200 million in FY 2015, $325 million in FY 2016, and $410 million in FY 2017.

The Comptroller’s Office estimates that if all unions instead agreed to an annual increase of 1.0 percent over the five-year term of the contract, it will cost an additional $1.6 billion, including retroactive cost, in FY 2014, $770 million in FY  2015, $758 million in FY 2016 and $694 million in FY 2017. 

If the wage increases were linked to inflation, the additional cost would increase to $3.4 billion in FY 2014, $1.9 billion in FY 2015, $2.1 billion in FY 2016, and $2.4 billion in FY 2017.

The labor contracts for the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) are one round behind the contracts of the City’s other municipal unions. The City and the unions were unable to reach an agreement in the 2008 – 2010 round after the City proposed a settlement with no wage increases. The other municipal unions had settled for a two-year contract with 4.0 percent increases in the beginning of the first and second year of the contract. The New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) is in the final stage of a fact finding process that was initiated to resolve the deadlock between the UFT and the City.

PERB will shortly hold a final hearing on wage increases for UFT members and then issue a report detailing recommendations for a contract resolution. While PERB recommendations are not binding they have served as a framework for final labor contracts with the UFT in the past. A recommendation patterned after the labor agreements of the other municipal unions will cost the City approximately $3.495 billion in FY 2014, including retroactive cost, and $900 million annually beginning in FY 2015.


Anonymous said...

For the life of me I can not believe how PERB can not agree that we are entitled to the same pattern of 4+4 just like every other union got. PERB should not be swayed by whatever fiscal "situation" that is currently facing the city. That is not something that PERB should even consider. PERB has to look at the facts of recent pattern bargaining history when it comes to negotiating what has taken place. The fact is all other unions got the 4 and 4 and we deserve the same. If this pattern is broken and the UFT agrees to what the state workers got, then there will never be a city "pattern bargain" again as we will be compared what state workers get. Lastly, if we are presented with 3 years of wage freezes, you can sure as Hell bet that there will be a massive teacher shortage as nobody in their right mind is going want to enter an already hostile teaching profession that will not pay what is deserved.

James Eterno said...

Look closely. We can get the 4+4 for the first two years and then get the three zeros the state workers got. PERB can only make a recommendation for those first two years. It is up to the unions and city to negotiate the next pattern. City is looking to state for that next pattern.

Anonymous said...

James I read in The Chief on a couple of occasions and in the Daily News this week that the nurses are in binding arbitration over the 4 and 4. The city nurses did not get the pattern either and the hearings will end in January and a decision will be made in the spring. Wouldn't the new mayor wait for this decision before attempting to settle with us? A new contract may not happen quickly for this reason.

Anonymous said...

Confused about all of this. Can somebody explain how it would look to an average teacher? So a teacher could expect to get a 2% raise for one school year, and then get another 2% raise in the following year along with 4% retroactive pay upfront? Is this how it could look?

James Eterno said...

I read the material on the city nurses. You might be right. However, our "non binding" arbitration comes first. Don't you think that will have some sway on the nurses' arbitration? I do not see the next mayor trying two bites at the arbitration apple. If the pattern holds with us, our contract might happen quickly. Our non binding arbitration has been used three times to settle our contract in the past. When I was on the executive board, two contracts with Bloomberg happened soon after the arbitrators issued their report. The decisions set the framework for our contracts. If past practice holds, which I expect to be the case with de Blasio, this might get done rather quickly. If our arbitrators do away with pattern bargaining, then maybe we would want to wait for that second bite of the apple. but more likely negotiations start quickly after our arbitration because I predict we will accept the report unless it totally does away with the pattern which I do not expect to happen.

Anonymous said...

UFT is much more likely to influence the nurses than the other way around. Teachers represent a lot more people.

Anonymous said...

Diane Ravitch posted an insider essay on her blog showing how bad the Klein/Black/Walcott education policies were

James Eterno said...

4% +4% would be for 2009-2010 & 2010-2011. Simple as that. If the city gives us that money now, it adds up to a small fortune because they owe it to us for over four years.

Anonymous said...

The NYS property tax cap will have a profound impact on NYC labor contracts for many years to come. The tax cap rate adjusted for inflation in 2013 is 1.66%. Even though the tax cap doesn't apply to NYC homeowners, the city is still trying to use it to set the pattern for future labor contracts. A recent teachers contract in Rocky Point Long Island was negotiated using the tax cap.

Anonymous said...

Why won't the UFT organize the unorganized, the unrepresented, like the transportation nurses?

Why does the union continue to tolerate the privatization of those services as well as those of many specialist counselors and therapists? With such private providers those employees don't get benefits.

Cynical in Cinncinnatti said...

The UFT has put itself in preservation mode ensuring that organizing commitments are only made where there is either a small commitment to funds or the potential return is worth the risk. The leadership has adopted the Bloomberg/Corporate style of unionism treating inroads with traditional union values as impediments to their new model of unionism. Eventually without DOE help the union will either be decertified (if the membership can understand what is happening)or totally marginalized. Place your bets on the latter.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind the zeros if in return they get rid of extended day, return all seniority rights, return grievance rights, scrap the Fellows program and TFA contracts and place ATRs in vacancies, get rid of the current funding scheme, and have a system of reporting abusive supervisors where they get punished for abuses.

Anonymous said...

James there are rumors and even a union person who thinks we will not get full retro (this is what a teacher said in the faculty room when she went for a consultation on retirement). My concern is the union dropping the ball on this. The union has an awful history on negotiations. Anything positive you can say about this? The previous comment made an excellent point that we should get givebacks for accepting zero percent raises.

James Eterno said...

Here is what CSEA got in exchange for accepting the three zeros back in 2011:

"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."

The fiscal situation for the state in 2011 was much rougher than it is for NYC today. The blogger Chaz is completely right about this.

Do teachers need a no layoff agreement now with so many people quitting? I don't know. What we need for our job security is a total revamping of the teacher evaluation system. The last two commenters have very good points.

I have no way of knowing anything about what the arbitrators will say about full retro but if we destroy the pattern, or set a lousy pattern for the next round, we need a lot of take-backs in return.