Thursday, December 26, 2013

CAN THE CITY AFFORD TO GIVE RAISES TO CITY EMPLOYEES?

The blogger Chaz has done some excellent reporting on our contract negotiations.  He believes the city has money to pay us real salary increases for two rounds of collective bargaining, not just the one where educators are behind most other city unions who received two 4% raises without givebacks.  His source is the usually conservative Independent Budget Office that released a report earlier this month saying city finances were in pretty good shape with billions of dollars in surpluses this year that are projected to extend into future years as well.

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 city with 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. 






8 comments:

Anonymous said...

How about getting rid of the extra 37 1/2 minutes that is in our contract? Bloombucks says that we got a "raise" but we actually ended up working more time for more money which is not a raise at all. I say if we are getting shafted on the money, we should eliminate the 37 1/2 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Give up time instead of a raise. That is a tough sell with the public.

Mr. Talk said...

I sure hope you mean that the city plans to give us our 4&4, and the try to push off the zeroes on us. I wouldn't be happy with that, but I could accept it if it came with a 2+2 at the end.

A seven year contract of 4,4,0,0,0,2,2 that would take us through 2016--is that in the cards?

James Eterno said...

Based on city budget projections, yes but with the huge retroactive paid in installments.

Anonymous said...

How is retro payed calculated for teachers that have been in the system since before the last contract? In other words would the retro be 4% of whatever a teacher earned in salary from 2009 and then another 4% of what a teacher earned in 2010?

James Eterno said...

Yes. That is why they owe us a fortune.

Anonymous said...

RETRO PAY IS ABOUT MORE THAN MONEY. IT'S A BASIC QUESTION OF UNION POWER. AS MUNICIPAL WORKERS WE GIVE UP THE LEGAL RIGHT TO STRIKE, SUPPOSEDLY IN EXCHANGE FOR GOOD FAITH BARGAINING. IF WE DON'T GET RETRO PAY, WHAT WILL PREVENT FUTURE MAYORS FROM REFUSING TO NEGOTIATE IN GOOD FAITH FOR NOT JUST 4 YEARS AS BLOOMBERG DID, BUT 5 OR 10 YEARS ? RETRO PAY IS A CUTTING EDGE ISSUE !

Anonymous said...

One way for Mayor DiBlasio to keep his campaign promise of solving the income inequality problem is to pay city workers a fair and living wage. Allowing them to afford homes and raise their children in the city.

A just pay raise retroactive will allow teachers and municipal employee to make-up the cost of living increases of the Bloomberg years. Everything in the city went up over the last 12 years except for real wages. Lets start with a fair an equitable contract. It would help end the tail of two cities.