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June 11th, 2012
By MARK TOOR | Posted: Monday, June 4, 2012 5:00 pm
Despite new contracts containing a three-year wage freeze, some state workers are seeing a little more money in their paychecks, although in many cases it is not enough to make up for the higher health-insurance premiums and the deductions for four unpaid furlough days this year imposed under those contracts.
About three-quarters of the Civil Service Employees Association’s members received extra pay, as did two-thirds of Public Employees Federation members. Forty-five percent of CSEA members received increments on their way to the “job rate,” or full pay for their positions, and another 30 percent qualified for longevity pay. At PEF, 40 percent received step raises and 27 percent got longevity bonuses.
Total Cost: $138 Million
The step raises cost the state $63 million, a spokesman for State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said. The longevity payments totaled $75 million. Longevity payments are $1,250 per year for employees who are five to 10 years past reaching the job rate and rise to $2,500 for those 10 years or more past the job rate. It usually takes seven years to reach the job rate.
The costs of the furlough days—five in the last fiscal year and four this year—were divided among all of the year’s paychecks. The cost of insurance premiums rose as much as 60 percent for higher-paid employees with individual coverage. Taken together, this meant that most CSEA and PEF members saw their take-home pay decrease when the new contracts took effect last year.
Do the additional payments make up for the drop in take-home pay? “For some it may,” said Darcy Wells, a spokeswoman for PEF president Ken Brynien. “For others it certainly mitigates the loss in take-home pay.”
Stephen Madarasz, a spokesman for CSEA president Danny Donohue, said, “It depends on their salary level.” He noted that the increases in health-care premiums were steeper for higher-salaried workers.
During contentious contract talks, the Cuomo administration initially sought to end step and longevity payments but eventually dropped those demands. “During negotiations, we worked hard to keep these benefits in our contract,” Ms. Wells said.
The union officials said the additional money had little effect on how workers felt about their jobs.
‘Blamed for the World’s Ills’
“Morale is very bad—there’s no other way to put it—for a lot of different reasons,” Mr. Madarasz said. Referring to the shrinking size of the state workforce, he said, “people are working harder, they have less help, they have less resources, and political figures are blaming public employees for all of the world’s ills.”
“Nobody likes to lose take-home pay, even if it is only deferred,” Ms. Wells said, speaking of a provision that would pay back employees for this year’s furlough days at the end of the contract. “It is still money they could use now. But for others this was the difference between the unemployment line and keeping their jobs.”
While union members have received their raises or are in the process of getting them, workers in the management/confidential ranks are waiting on the Cuomo administration to approve a budget bulletin authorizing their step raises and longevity pay, said Barbara Zaron, president of the Organization of Management/Confidential Employees.
“We expect our members will get performance advances and longevity payments retroactive to April 1,” she said.
The Managers’ Plight
OMCE is working on the larger pay issues involving management/confidential employees. OMCE is an association, not a union, and cannot negotiate contracts; management/confidential employees are dependent on the goodwill of the Governor.
This hasn’t worked out well recently; pay for these employees has been frozen since 2009-2010 and many are making up to $8,000 less than union members who work for them. The Cuomo administration announced at the end of last year that their pay would be frozen for at least this year and next as well. “It’s frustrating,” Ms. Zaron said.