Tapping a Labor Fund
June 14th, 2011
Talks are continuing over whether the city labor unions would give the city money from a rainy day healthcare fund to go avert layoffs of 4,100 teachers and other city workers, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said today. Any money might also go to save some fire companies and seniors centers now slated to be shut.
At a press conference before todayís scheduled council meeting, Quinn made it clear the idea of using money from the fund had come from the Municipal Labor Committee and its chairman, Harry Nespoli.
“I want to be vey clear how very grateful I am to Harry Nespoli and the Labor Council that they are even entertaining” helping the city government in this way, Quinn said.
She said the idea came up after “I said to Harry, ‘we need help,’… Harry said, “‘yes, let me see what we can do,’ and they got back to me.”
Currently, Quinn said, the labor group is considering what its specific proposal might be. Once they do, discussions can proceed from there, she said.
Nespoli and the committee are reportedly planning to discuss the idea tomorrow.
While Nespoli has not disclosed any specifics, he told the Wall Street Journal, “You’re talking about civilians being laid off. Who wants to put a person on the unemployment line right now? Nobody. I don’t think it’s right.”
On Sunday, the Daily News reported that union officials were considering allowing the city to take money from the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund that labor controls. The city contributes $35 million a year to the fund, which was set up to cover healthcare costs. On estimate puts the amount in the fund at at least $400 million.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has essentially refused to comment on the talks with labor — or on the idea itself.
Certainly stumbling blocks remain.
For one, the union have said they would want the city to chip in some funds as well, according to report in the Times.
Unions representing uniformed workers, largely untouched by layoffs might not want to essentially give up money to save teachers. The labor committee includes 90 union with more than a half a million current and retired city workers.
The frayed relations between the mayor and much of his workforce also could pose a problem. Itís certainly no accident the union group made its offer, whatever it might have been, to Quinn, not Bloomberg.
Then too, many observers have expressed a degree of mystification about the insistence of Bloomberg and his schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott, on the layoffs of 4,100 teachers. Both have repeatedly rebuffed suggestions of alternative cuts.
Some have surmised, the layoff threat was a bluff to try to force the state to change the rules requiring that layoffs be based on seniority — the so-called last in, first out system. If that’s the case, then the labor committee offer, made only after it was apparent the state would not change the seniority system, would give the mayor a way to save face — and teacher jobs.
On the other hand, if Bloomberg simply wants to get rid of teacher for other, non-budgetary reasons — anger at the union, a drive toward more technology and fewer teachers or — then the teachers are domed, whatever the labor committee might ante up.By Gail Robinson on June 14, 2011, 5:56 pm
In category: City Hall, Education, Gotham City, Public Finance, Work and Labor | 2 Comments »