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August 20, 2013
Reportedly, the terms of a tentative agreement between the teachers’ union and board of education in Westchester’s Bedford Central School District would do away with step increases for newly hired teachers.
For years, school boards (and mayors and other local government officials, for that matter) have been clamoring for repeal of the Triborough Amendment – which allows for automatic “step” pay increases even after collectively-bargained contracts expire — as a way to help reign in spending. Under Triborough, employers are at a distinct disadvantage in the bargaining process as there’s no impetus for employee groups to accept anything less than what the law guarantees in step increases. (more…)
August 7, 2013
Eliot Spitzer did some huge favors for the state’s largest public employee union when he was governor, so it’s no surprise that the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) has endorsed him in his race for New York City comptroller.
During 15 months in the state’s top office, Spitzer added thousands of employees to the state payroll, agreed to a contract that would raise the base pay of CSEA members by about 14 percent over four years, and issued an executive order allowing CSEA to organize thousands of publicly subsidized home-based daycare providers.
The head-scratcher in the comptroller’s race is the attitude of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), which is opposing Spitzer and backing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the primary. (more…)
July 25, 2013
Thanks to a last-minute bill language tweak sought by police and firefighter unions, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s watered-down “reform” of New York’s compulsory arbitration law will not apply to a number of unsettled contracts that hadn’t even reached the arbitration stage before the law was extended just before the Legislature adjourned last month. Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) records now indicate that up to two dozen contract disputes may have been carved out of the new law (Ch. 67 of 2013), with the full impact ultimately depending on how many of these employers are considered fiscally distressed enough to otherwise qualify.
Cuomo has claimed that the arbitration change ”will improve the process and help municipalities continue to protect the public’s safety while balancing the interests of their taxpayers.” However, because the governor caved to union demands in the final week of the session, the full measure of those purported (and debatable) benefits won’t immediately flow to taxpayers in some of the state’s most distressed localities — including Suffolk County and the cities of Gloversville and Syracuse.
July 3, 2013
Governor Andrew Cuomo claims that “delivering badly needed binding arbitration reforms” was among his accomplishments during the recently ended legislative session. However, as argued in previous posts on this blog, Cuomo actually squandered a golden opportunity to deliver much more meaningful reform of the 39-year-old, repeatedly renewed but still temporary statute that has done much to drive police and firefighter compensation through the roof in New York.
As if to prove the point, the head of the New York State Professional Firefighters Association (PFFA) says he was not displeased by the result. In this online update for his members, PFFA President Michael McManus revealingly reviews how the arbitration issue unfolded from the union’s perspective.
June 24, 2013
Nicole Gelinas of the Manhattan Institute has a must-read piece in today’s New York Post on little-noted fiscal parallels between New York City and bankrupt Stockton, California.
In an effort to slash its liabilities, Stockton is notifying its employees that their retiree health insurance coverage is about to be cancelled. And, Nicole says, this is no coincidence:
The conventional wisdom is that California cities are broke because they borrowed too much. Wrong: Because their state Constitution limits property taxes, California cities have little debt, because they have no way to pay it back.
No, the main reason they’re declaring bankruptcy is to wriggle out of a different burden: the promises they made to workers to pay for lifetime health care.
June 20, 2013
A pending change to the state’s binding arbitration law covering police and firefighter contract disputes will not cover pending contract impasses involving firefighters in Syracuse thanks to a last-minute tweak of the bill by Governor Andrew Cuomo. As a result, taxpayers in one of the state’s largest cities (and undoubtedly some other cities and towns as well) will not see any benefit at all from Cuomo’s already watered-down modification of the existing arbitration law.*
As explained here yesterday, hours after the draft of the agreed-upon local government “financial restructuring” bill was released by the governor’s office late Tuesday morning, the bill was revised to reflect two changes sought by police and fire unions.
June 19, 2013
The ink was barely dry on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s local government “restructuring” bill yesterday when the governor made two more concessions to unions on the issue of binding arbitration.
As explained here yesterday, the agreed-upon legislation is weaker and likely to be much less effective than Cuomo’s original proposal for capping police and firefighter pay and benefit increases under an arbitration system that has played a major role in pushing municipal compensation costs to unaffordable and unsustainable levels.
Governor’s Program Bill #21, as posted on his website late yesterday morning, would have expired in 2015 — a political off-year. Legislative sources said the unions were pushing for a later expiration date. The original bill also contained one important loophole for unions in its final paragraph; while the effective date is retroactive to April 1, the new language would not apply to any contract dispute referred to the Public Employment Relations Board for arbitration before June 14 — i.e., last Friday, the last business day before the bill was filed.
Later in the day, however, the governor’s office substituted Program Bill #21R, containing two changes to the original: pushing the expiration date out one more year, to 2016 (which is both a legislative and presidential election year), and adding language that says the law also will not apply to disputes that resulted in a “declaration of impasse” (the step before an arbitration petition) before June 14.
June 18, 2013
Governor Andrew Cuomo has pulled the teeth out of his original proposal to reform the binding arbitration law for police and fire contract disputes, squandering an opportunity to deliver on a key mandate relief priority for many municipalities.
Under bill language reportedly agreed to by the governor and the Legislature, arbitrators will be required to give more weight to an employer’s “ability to pay” in contract disputes between local governments and police and fire unions. However, the governor has backed away from stronger language capping the cost of salaries and benefits awarded through arbitration. The final bill apparently reflects the governor’s efforts to negotiate a bill acceptable to unions — even though Cuomo was in a strong position to virtually dictate his terms for agreeing to an extension of the arbitration law, which is due to expire June 30. The new extension would expire in two years.
June 17, 2013
The New York State Professional Firefighters Association (PFFA) was not at all pleased by the Empire Center’s news release last week highlighting the generous pensions of recently retired local police and firefighters. The union has responded by posting this “warning to legislators” accusing of us of clinging to “statistical sleight of hand rather than legitimate analysis.”
Specifically, PFFA President Michael McManus claims the Empire Center (and this writer, in particular) “unfairly attacked” the pensions of police and firefighters when we reported that one out of six cops and firefighters retiring in 2012 had qualified for maximum pension benefits of more than $100,000.
June 7, 2013
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Don’t look now, but the Legislature is a step away from passing a straight four-year extension of the Taylor Law’s police and binding arbitration provision, which is due to sunset June 30. The Senate extender bill (sponsored by Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn) was reported out of the Civil Service and Pensions Committee last week and advanced to third reading on the floor calendar this week. The Assembly bill (sponsored by Peter Abbate, D-Brooklyn) has been sitting on the floor calendar in the lower house since late April.
Governor Cuomo has said he would not agree to extend the law without changes, but hasn’t been clear on what kind of changes he will demand as his price for signing. Despite strong union support for the measure, Cuomo could make a veto stick—as David Paterson did when he vetoed a previously routine extension of the long-established Tier 2 police and fire pension pension plan back in 2009.