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De Blasio Strikes Deal With Teachers Union, With $5.5B in Raises

By Colby Hamilton | May 1, 2014 4:07pm | Updated on May 1, 2014 7:32pm
 Mayor Bill de Blasio, UFT president Michael Mulgrew, and schools chancellor Carmen Farińa announce the $5.5 billion contract agreement with the city's teacher union on May 1, 2014.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, UFT president Michael Mulgrew, and schools chancellor Carmen Farińa announce the $5.5 billion contract agreement with the city's teacher union on May 1, 2014.
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DNAinfo/Colby Hamilton

CIVIC CENTER — Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached a deal with the United Federation of Teachers that will award billions of dollars in retroactive pay raises to the city's teachers, while also promising $1.3 billion in health care savings.

But the mayor said the exact source of the savings is yet to be determined, and there was no increase in contributions for union members.

The nine-year agreement, which stretches back to 2009 and will extend through 2018, settles the city’s largest outstanding contract dispute and sets the table for deals with the rest of the city’s workforce. The plan is expected to cost the city $4.2 billion, officials said, after the health savings go into effect.

"We have reached a landmark agreement for our school teachers, but, first and foremost, a landmark achievement for our families," de Blasio said at a City Hall press conference announcing the accord.

The deal, agreed to by the union but not yet ratified by members, would provide teachers with a 10 percent raise over six years, beginning in May 2013. It also includes a one-time $1,000 bonus.

Going forward, teachers will receive a 1 percent annual raise through 2015, with a 1.5 percent increase in 2016, a 2.5 percent increase in 2017 and a 3 percent increase in 2018.

While those in the administration and the teacher's union hailed the agreement, calling it fiscally responsible for the city's taxpayers, officials remained evasive on the specific details of the cost-saving sources.

Mayor de Blasio admitted that they have yet to find the exact source of the health care costs that would be shrunk to offset the costs of the planned raises, but said he was "very confident" that his team could work with the UFT to find some.

In information shared with reporters, the mayor's office said the UFT would audit health care benefits to remove those who should not be receiving services, and centralize all prescription drug purchases, among other measures. Officials did not immediately specify those they believe to be improperly receiving services.

However, in order to take effect, the health care cost savings estimated by the city must be approved by the Municipal Labor Committee, the umbrella group that oversees health care for the city's entire workforce, which is all covered under a single plan. 

Other unions have expressed concerns about the plan, which they reportedly consider an unfair burden on them to fund raises for the city's teachers union.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Union said Thursday that it had reached an impasse after it said the mayor's office offered them no retroactive raises and only a three year contract.

"Our officers are already among the lowest paid big-city police officers in the country. Now the city wants us to take another three years with no raise and that is simply unacceptable," Lynch said in a statement.

De Blasio declined to discuss the PBA situation, other than to say, "Why don't we consider what happens to everybody else after we see what happens in these next few steps?"

Still, those in the teacher's union hailed the plan.

"The wait is over!" UFT President Michael Mulgrew wrote in a letter posted Thursday on the union's website. "Earlier today we reached a tentative contract agreement with the Department of Education that recognizes the hard work that we do every day in the classroom and restores the dignity of our profession after years of abuse."

"It is a contract for educators but, of equal importance, it is also a contract for education that will not only benefit us but also the students, schools and communities we serve."

Mulgrew praised de Blasio and Department of Education Chancellor Carmen Fariña for restoring the role of "educators — not bureaucrats or consultants — in the driver’s seat" on decisions on the fate of schools.

The deal contains a host of major educational reforms that have sparked disagreements between the city and union in the past.

New rules will make it easier to fire teachers for sexual misconduct, redefining improper touching and text messaging as misconduct.

It will also be easier for the city to fire some of the 1,200 paid, non-working teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool if they don't show up for assignments or miss two job interviews, a move that officials said made them confident they would be able to shrink the pool considerably while placing worthy teachers back into the school system.

The city also freed up bonus awards for the best teachers and those teaching in struggling schools — offering a $5,000 bonus to teachers at the city's 150 lowest-performing schools if they agree to stay in their school. High-performing teachers at any school will be eligible for bonuses between $7,000 and $20,000 if they agree to help train their colleagues while still continuing to teach.

The city will also let 200 public schools become innovation hubs by letting educators there waive DOE rules and "experiment," including creating their own curriculum or changing the duration of the school year or the school day.

Schools will also double the number of parent-teacher conferences from two to four per year and will create a 40-minute block of time on Thursdays for “parent engagement.”

With the UFT deal done, attention is expected to turn to settling the other 151 outstanding labor contracts in the city. During past negotiations, the city has applied what is known as pattern bargaining to the other unions, which could mean a similar deal could be offered to those other unions.