July 20, 2011
By Carol Moran
Reprint from Legislative Gazette July 18, 2011
Nearly 1,000 members of the New York State Public Employees Federation can breathe a little easier after the announcement of a tentative agreement between the union and the state that will rescind already sent out layoff notices, and if adopted, will save the state almost $400 million.
The five-year tentative agreement that PEF members will soon vote on includes a wage freeze for the first three years, followed by a 2 percent increase for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.
It offers a redesign of the health care benefit systems, under which employees will be responsible for contributing more towards health care costs, and obligates members to take a five-day unpaid furlough during 2011-2012, and a four-day unpaid furlough during 2012-2013.
PEF, one of the two largest public employees unions in the state, represents 54,000 state employees, according to the governor’s office. The PEF agreement is similar to one negotiated last month between the Civil Service Employees Association and the state, which members are also voting on. If the state’s other unions units adopt similar agreements, the governor’s office said it will save over $1.5 billion.
PEF’s executive board is scheduled to vote on the agreemnent during its Aug. 11 meeting and after that, the general membership will be asked to vote on it.
”This was a difficult agreement to reach, but with our members’ jobs in peril and the state’s fiscal hardship we’ve stepped up and made the necessary sacrifices,” PEF President Ken Brynien said in a press release. “The agreement will preserve our members’ jobs and careers while bringing long term fiscal stability to the state. We are confident that this is the best agreement that could be negotiated in the current environment.”
According to the governor’s office, state employees’ contributions to health care benefits have remained stable for 30 years. Under the agreement, Grade 9 employees and below face a 2 percent increase in benefits costs, and grade 10 employees and above face a 6 percent increase. Overall the health care reforms will save $54 million annually and $248 million over the five-year contract term, the governor’s office reported.
PEF members will also have the previously-unoffered option of opting out of health care coverage, as long as they can provide proof of alternative coverage.
”This agreement reflects the financial reality of the times. I am pleased that we could avoid these layoffs, protect the workforce and the taxpayer,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said, July 18, 2011.