A contract settlement between United University Professions (UUP), SUNY’s union of faculty and professional staff, and New York State was announced on February 19. UUP members will vote on ratification of the tentative agreement this spring; ballots mailed out April 19 will be due back by May 15.
Covering the period from July 2, 2011, through July 1, 2016, the five-year agreement provides for no pay increases in the first three years, followed by a 2% raise in 2014-15 and another 2% hike in 2015-16.
In addition, a “Deficit Reduction Plan” will reduce SUNY faculty and staff paychecks during the next two years. “Employees will have their salary reduced by the value of a total of nine days” during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 fiscal years. Their work schedules, however, will be reduced by only two days during that time. The seven days they work without compensation will be repaid, without interest, in the final year of the agreement.
“Times are tough for public employee unions,” said UUP President Phil Smith. “When the dust from the talks settles, I believe our members will see that UUP and the negotiations team did a good job of getting the best deal possible.” Governor Cuomo hailed the agreement, saying that it “continues the State’s commitment to fiscal discipline.”
Gains in the tentative agreement cited by the UUP include several service awards at certain points in an employee’s career, such as a $500 raise on receiving a permanent appointment, and improvements in the grievance procedure.
SUNY employees do not receive step increases; instead, employees may receive some increments to salary at the discretion of the chancellor or their college president. In this proposed UUP contract, the chancellors’ awards would be given equally to every member as pay increases in three years of the contract: $500 in 2013, $250 in 2014 and $500 in 2015. College presidents have a pool of funds for bonus payments to individuals that they select, in each of the last four years of the contract. Money for these bonuses is equal to 0.5% of annual payroll.
UUP was the last major State worker union to arrive at a settlement, and terms of the deal follow the same outline as contracts between the State and its two largest unions, the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) and the Public Employees Federation (PEF), in 2011. Those contracts also provide for a three-year wage freeze, followed by two annual increases of 2%, and for several “furlough days” for union members. Governor Cuomo had threatened that he would lay off 10,000 State workers if the concessionary contracts were not approved.
Angry PEF members voted down their proposed agreement the first time around, despite the layoff threats. But after falling short by a margin of 54% to 46%, the PEF settlement – with some minor adjustments – was approved by a more than two-to-one margin after the first 3,500 layoff notices were sent out. But members of both unions were bitter about the outcome, saying they’d been forced to negotiate with a gun held to their heads. Last year, PEF’s president lost his re-election bid, with the contract settlement a major issue.
State officials had briefly threatened layoffs of UUP members in 2011, in the wake of the CSEA and PEF settlements. While the State has not publicly threatened UUP members’ jobs since then, the Albany Times-Union reported this year that “the UUP [contract] discussion was accompanied by layoff tensions.”
UUP members’ comments on the settlement were strongly negative on the UUP’s Facebook page, and the same was true in comments on the Times-Union’s blog on NY politics, Capitol Confidential. However, there was no sign of an organized “vote no” effort among union members.
The settlement would also increase UUP members’ health care costs, raising the percentage they must pay of their health insurance premium. For employees earning less than $40,137, this will go up by two percentage points, leaving employees responsible for 12% of the premium for individual coverage and 27% for a family plan. For employees earning more than that amount, the increase is six percentage points, for an employee share of 16% for individual coverage and 31% for family.