Municipal unions back UFT deal with New York City

Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew speaks as Mayor Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew speaks as Mayor Bill de Blasio announces that the city and the United Federation of Teachers have reached a preliminary agreement on a new contract at a press conference at City Hall on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

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Leaders of the city's municipal labor unions gave their blessing Friday to a proposed teachers contract imposing $1.3 billion in health care savings, but several unions of cops and firefighters signaled unease with the deal.

By a vote of 20 to 2, the steering panel of the Municipal Labor Committee approved the agreement, between Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration and the United Federation of Teachers.

The committee is an umbrella group representing the 150-plus bargaining units that make up the city's 300,000-strong mostly unionized workforce. The group must green-light changes to health care because what happens with one union influences negotiations with the others. All of the committee's units are set to vote on Monday.

The two "no" votes were Stephen Cassidy of the FDNY's Uniformed Firefighters Association and Michael J. Palladino of the NYPD's Detectives Endowment Association.

"Congratulations to Michael Mulgrew and the teachers union," Palladino said, referring to the teacher union head. "However, I think police and fire have a very difficult, dangerous and at times a deadly job, and that package doesn't meet our needs."

During a radio interview on WNYC, de Blasio said he expects the UFT deal, which needs to be ratified by its rank-and-file, to set a pattern for settling the rest of the 150-plus expired contracts.

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In addition to raises of about 18 percent over the life of the nine-year contract, the UFT and the city are required to jointly find $1.3 billion in health care savings during the period, through such suggestions as consolidating lab test analysis and centralized prescription buying.

Harry Nespoli, the head of the Municipal Labor Committee and also a sanitation union official, said that he respects the dissenters but: "I think this is a fair contract for the City of New York."

De Blasio's press office has put the cost of the deal at about $5.5 billion through 2018, to be partly offset by the promised health care savings. But for a second day the staff declined to provide the contract's total cost to taxpayers through 2020, when also factoring in the retroactive pay.

Officials say those details, including how the city's $70 billion executive budget will fund the raises, will be unveiled on Thursday.

The union said workers who will have retired before the end of June will receive the back pay -- 4 percent for 2009, and 4 percent in 2010 -- in one lump sum. Those who retire afterward or stay on the job will receive their back pay in increments beginning in October 2015 and ending in 2020.

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