Back Pay for Teachers Could Get Stretched Out to a Nine-Year Deal

United Federation of Teachers

The de Blasio administration is looking to expand the contract with the teachers’ union to a 9 year deal, which would let the city draw out big retroactive pay increases.

The teachers’ union is insisting that they are owed 4 percent because other municipal unions, such as District Council 37, received 4 percent pay increases in 2009 and 2010. Officials say agreeing with that demand would cost $3.4 billion, but the city has claimed that it cannot afford that kind of money. Whatever deal the teachers receive could make other unions seek new contracts with City Hall since they have been working under expired ones for several years. Hence, the other unions have been anxiously waiting for the teachers’ union to reach a settlement over its demand for 4 percent annual raises.

City negotiators argue that the city does not have the money for all the raises the unions are requesting. To make more money available, the city is encouraging teachers and other unions to agree to save in health insurance costs by filling prescriptions through the mail. The chairman of the Municipal Labor Committee, Harry Nespoli, said “We can’t reach an agreement on any health deal without those outstanding contracts resolved.”

The president of the United Federation of Teachers, Michael Mulgrew, insists that the fact-finding panel should award the full 4 percent retroactive raises for 2009 and 2010 to the teacher’s union. He says “There is more money than the city is saying; we want a contract that’s fair, we’re not trying to bankrupt the city.” However, Mr. Mulgrew does not realize that the full 4 percent retroactive raise could leave the city with little money to award teacher raises for 2011, 2012 and years to follow. Budget documents show every 1 percent raise costs about $350 million. If the fact-finders advocate that less than 4 percent will be awarded to the teacher’s union for 2009 and 2010, it would free up more money for raises in later years.

The Bloomberg administration told the fact-finding panel that if they were to agree to award the full $3.4 billion, the amount would be fully included in this year’s city budget, which would create a huge deficit. To avoid this from happening, some have suggested converting the retroactive raises into payments made over a few years. Not only would this avoid the big hole in the city’s budget, but city employees would feel better that they would be receiving more substantial raises.