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PSC reacts to Paterson’s proposed furloughs and buyouts

May 5, 2010 pm31 7:42 pm

The Professional Staff Congress, AFT Local 2334, represents professors, instructors, adjuncts, lab techs, HEOs and a host of other professional titles at the City University of New York’s many campuses. Barbara Bowen is president.

May 5, 2010 

Dear PSC Members, 

Yesterday Governor Paterson issued two proposals, both of which may—and I stress may—affect us at CUNY.  The first is legislation to enact “a mandatory furlough program which will continue until there is an enacted budget in place” (State of New York Executive Department Budget Bulletin B-1189).  The governor proposes that the legislation to provide continued funding for State government operations, which is offered on a week-to-week basis until a final budget is approved, simultaneously include a provision to reduce the salary and the workweek of every affected employee by 20% per week. 

20% Salary Cut ProposalWe are deeply opposed to the governor’s proposal for a 20% salary cut for “employees in Executive branch agencies” (Budget Bulletin B-1189).  CUNY is not an Executive branch agency, and employees represented by the PSC, whether at a senior or a community college, are not State employees.  We are employees of CUNY, which is, under the law, a separate and distinct corporate body.  The PSC leadership has successfully argued this position in the past, when Governor Paterson sought to impose a unilateral pay cut on employees of Executive branch agencies, and we are prepared to make the same argument again this time.  We have also argued that it is illegal for the governor unilaterally to abrogate the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.  Should the State pass the legislation and seek to impose the 20% salary cut on us, however, we are prepared to fight it every way we can, including through legal action, legislative advocacy and mobilization of members. 

Governor Paterson’s press release announcing the furlough proposal cites “the unions’ unwillingness to make any sacrifices” and vows to “do whatever is necessary to protect New York’s finances.”  There is nothing “necessary” about a 20% salary cut.  What is necessary is the closing of tax loopholes and the restoration of a progressive personal income tax system that would replenish the State’s revenue.  The governor’s proposal to cut the salaries of public employees—like his proposal to cut another $100 million from CUNY’s budget—represents a political choice: to impose further hardship on working people, the middle class and the poor while sparing the richest New Yorkers from paying their fair share.  There are many other choices the State could adopt to close the budget gap without imposing a 20% salary cut on public employees.  We will fight vigorously for an alternative approach to the budget and for the right of public employees to be compensated according to their collectively bargained contracts. 

Early Retirement IncentiveThe second proposal is for a temporary early retirement incentive “for certain State employees and other public employees to assist in streamlining the workforce while also achieving cost savings” (Governor’s Program Bill 2010 #249).  If the proposed legislation is approved by the Legislature, eligibility to participate “would be determined at employer discretion.”  As in the past, CUNY’s Board of Trustees would have to approve participation in the incentive by CUNY employees.  If the legislation passes, and if CUNY approves participation, the incentive would include both TRS and Optional Retirement Program participants (such as those in TIAA-CREF), although it would be structured differently in the different systems. 

The other PSC officers and I have been in conversation on the issue with CUNY management and our representatives in Albany since the governor made his announcement yesterday.  There is no news yet on whether CUNY expects to approve participation in the early retirement incentive.  In the past, the PSC has taken the position that even though we are concerned about the loss of experienced full-time faculty and staff through early retirement, we strongly support our members’ right to avail of such an option and have urged CUNY to approve participation.   As soon as we know whether the proposed early retirement incentive is passed and whether CUNY faculty and staff will be eligible to participate, we will make an announcement. 

The PSC leadership and staff are acting quickly in response to these two proposals and will keep you abreast of developments as they occur. 

In solidarity,

Barbara Bowen

President, PSC

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