Unless there’s surprise development, state workers will get pay checks in mid-April that are fattened with 4 percent salary increases–despite Governor Paterson’s call for shared sacrifice.

As Daily News columnist Bill Hammond writes (here):

If you run into any state workers today, be sure to congratulate them on the 4% raises they just got – despite the worst fiscal crisis to slam New York in generation. They darn well ought to thank you back, because the rest of us are going to suffer for their good fortune.

That nice bump for 120,000 unionized employees will cost Albany $433 million it simply doesn’t have right now, given the gaping $9 billion hole in its budget.
To fatten paychecks for the few, Gov. Paterson and the Legislature will have to sock it to the many.

The scheduled raises were negotiated by the Spitzer administration in 2007. Since then, Paterson tried in 2009 and again this year to win concession from public employee unions (here). Last June, he and two large unions reached a settlement: the unions agreed to a $20,000 buy-out plan and to not fight modest changes in the pension system for future employees. In exchange, Paterson agreed not to lay off members of the two unions until December 31, 2009 when his term expires.

The anti-layoff agreement appears to tie the governor’s hands, reducing his leverage in persuading unions to agree to a salary freeze. Nevertheless, Paterson yesterday called for a wage freeze first in a radio interview and then in a statement (here).

Public employee unions rejected Paterson’s latest plea for give backs (here and here). Gannett quotes a union official:

“This governor has no credibility to make such a request of his own state employees who are working harder than ever because of his incompetent
administration of the state,” said Stephen Madarasz, spokesman for the Civil Service Employees Association

The Buffalo News reports (here):

…Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson of Brooklyn, who has to consider cuts to popular programs like education and health care in an election year, signaled a possible interest in a pay freeze. He called on the governor’s Office of Employee Relations, which negotiates contracts with the unions, to”send a formal notice for bargaining to address the issues concerning our public work force.”Sampson said that in the past, “unions have been part of the solution.”

An editorial in the Buffalo News noted “public employee unions generally operate with a 1930s damn-the-consequences mind-set”. It was skeptical about Paterson’s chances of persuading unions to agree to givebacks to avert future layoffs (here).

Good luck getting them. Unions have learned that they’re better off giving nothing and that the state usually finds a different way out of its problem–usually by borrowing money that burdens future budgets and future taxpayers.

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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