The United Federation of Teachers decided to wait out Mike Bloomberg, and this week that strategy paid off handsomely — as Mayor de Blasio gave the union everything it demanded.
The UFT's 116,000 members will get backdated raises, plus more going forward — in exchange for unspecified concessions on health care, flexibility for some 200 schools and tiny reforms to the 1,000-strong “Absent Teacher Reserve” (i.e., teachers paid not to teach).
The contract announced Thursday by de Blasio and UFT chief Michael Mulgrew covers nine years, four of them already past, dating to 2009 when the last UFT contract expired.
The city will pay the equivalent of 4 percent raises for two of those four years — price tag, $3.6 billion — to sync with what other city workers got. (The actual back pay will only go out between 2015 and 2020, but current pay jumps now to reflect the raises.)
Plus, teachers will get 1 percent to 3 percent raises for the next five years. In sum, their base pay jumps 18 percent from 2009 to 2017.
The contract will, accordingly, cost many billions. And, since the city lacks the cash to pay out the retroactive raises now, it's borrowing from the future to pay for the past.
It's a very generous deal, especially for the teachers who've been getting “step” raises all along. (The state Triborough Amendment forces governments to award these pay hikes even when teachers are working without a contract.)
Since 2009, teacher step raises alone have added some $1.2 billion to city operating costs. As the Manhattan Institute's E.J. McMahon has shown, for nearly 60,000 of the city's 80,000 teachers, salaries rose over the last four years by an average of $8,000 per teacher — or nearly 12 percent.
So, while private-sector workers were losing their jobs, teachers avoided layoffs and got raises, and the new contract only piles on further. Yet teachers still get paid based on seniority and added academic degrees, not on whether their students learn.
And the UFT doesn't seem to be conceding much. Teachers still won't have to pay any of their health-care premiums and there are no planned cuts in coverage. The city labor commissioner claims the city can save $1 billion from small measures like having more teachers visit clinics rather than use the ER — but it's very far from clear how much savings will actually materialize.
This gift to the UFT comes after three years when the city endured budget deficits of $4.6 billion, $7.5 billion and $9.6 billion — even as its official balance sheet doesn't acknowledge its huge liabilities for employee and retiree health care.
Those three budgets were “balanced” with using rainy-day funds and one-shot revenues from things like selling new taxi medallions. But the budget gaps are getting too big to patch — especially as pay hikes mean fatter pensions for current workers, forcing the city to pay even more into pension funds.
The city can't hike any taxes easily, so it will soon have little choice but to put other government programs on the chopping block. The result: fewer public services, even as municipal employees collect bigger salaries and retirement checks.
So the new teachers contract may pose problems for other unions — how much money is left for raises for them? Yes, the teachers contract is understood to set the pattern for pay raises for everyone else. But teachers' retroactive pay eats into the cash available starting in 2015, so the city must offer all other unions smaller raises going forward. Police- and correction-union leaders have complained of getting the short end of the stick.
In a broader sense, de Blasio has returned to Gotham's historical “pattern” in government-labor relations — where more money is steadily transferred from the private to the public sector, without commensurate improvements in city services.
The de Blasio administration once referred to negotiating the expired contracts for all 151 of the city's labor unions as possibly the “hardest assignment that anyone in the history of labor relations in this city has taken on.” But rather than use that crisis to his advantage by starting to reform the city's relationship with its workers, the mayor went back to business as usual.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/05/03/new-york-city-cant-afford-the-teachers-contract/