New York City

NYC labor peace not guaranteed after teachers deal

More than 150 city unions are still without contracts

May 2, 2014 By Jonathan Lemire Associated Press
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Mayor Bill de Blasio made clear Friday that he expects that the modest wage increases accepted by the teachers union in their new contract will set the tone for negotiations with the rest of New York City’s workforce — but some in the labor force are already raising objections.

More than 150 city unions are still without contracts, creating a precarious fiscal situation for the nation’s largest city, and negotiations with many of them are expecting to intensify now that a nine-year deal was brokered Thursday with the United Federation of Teachers, which had gone the longest without a contract.

De Blasio said he thinks the UFT agreement has created a blueprint for raises for other city workers.

“We will clearly have established a pattern and I think unions will work from that assumption,” the mayor said during an interview on WNYC. De Blasio added that other unions would be free to ask for larger raises but “the pattern will still be the dominant reality.”

The new $5.5 billion deal with the UFT authorizes some retroactive pay and then a 10 percent salary hikes spread out until 2018, and while it makes vague promises of health care savings, it still does not alter the longstanding practice that spares municipal workers from contributing to their health care costs.

But one of the city’s most politically powerful unions has already taken a firm stance against accepting a similar deal. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents the city’s rank-and-file police officers, broke off talks with city negotiators. As a result, the New York State Public Employment Relations Board appointed a mediator Friday to help craft a contract.

“The teachers will negotiate for the teachers. We’ll negotiate for the police officers,” Patrick Lynch, head of the PBA, told reporters. “What’s been offered for New York City police officers doesn’t resolve the problem and is unacceptable. Any time there’s zeroes in a proposal, it’s unacceptable.”

Lynch said that the city wanted the PBA to accept a deal that contained three years of no raises. There is one year in the teacher’s deal without a raise but it is offset by a $1,000 bonus.

The mayor’s office declined to comment on the PBA talks.

A key goal of the UFT deal was to stem rising health care costs, as city negotiators have long been wary of the increasing strain it has placed on the city budget.

City workers do not contribute at all do their health care costs, an increasingly unusual arrangement. But while asking workers to make small contributions was a popular idea during last year’s mayoral campaign, the teachers will still not have to pay.

Instead, the deal aims to create $1 billion in other health care savings over the length of the contract. De Blasio said Friday that a menu of potential health care cost reductions had been identified and that each individual union could choose from that list as long as the savings goals were met. The specific measures have not been revealed publicly.

The steering committee of the Municipal Labor Committee, an umbrella group of New York City unions, voted Friday to approve the health care savings measures which, if applied to all city unions, could save $3.4 billion by 2018, according to City Hall.

The MLC’s full committee will vote Monday. The UFT deal won’t become ratified until is voted on by its full membership, a process that should occur over the next several weeks.

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