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Latest News - March 2012

March 6, 2012
Bloomberg and unions ramp up their war of words on pension reform; Unions head to Albany for Lobby Day
Source: New York Daily News

City releases study saying taxpayers contribute on average 15x more to pensions than employees, union leader Lillian Roberts calls numbers misleading

Municipal workers and government officials are waging a war right now and they are hoping to get your attention.

That means they are doing whatever they can to get their message out to the public, elected officials and civil servants about pension reform.

On Sunday, New York Leaders for Pension Reform — which includes Mayor Bloomberg — released a report about growing pension costs.

And on Tuesday, a large contingent of workers will descend on Albany as part of the annual AFSCME Lobby Day.

Included in that rally will be members of District Council 37, the city’s largest municipal union.

“We’re fighting this fight together across the state of New York,” said Lillian Roberts, executive director of DC 37.

Bloomberg, business leaders and others have said the growing cost of pensions and other worker benefits are crippling municipalities across the state and the nation.

They are hoping Gov. Cuomo will succeed where others have failed and reform pensions by increasing employee contributions and requiring them to work longer.

The group released an analysis of pension data for city workers who retired in 2007.

It said the “average equivalent cash value of pensions awarded in 2007 ranges from nearly $600,000 to more than $2 million — depending on the pension system — and on average taxpayers contributed 15 times more than the employee for the employee’s pension.”

Union leaders say they are being scapegoated for financial woes created by Wall Street greed and other factors.

Roberts said the numbers are misleading because city workers are covered by at least six different pension plans.

The average pension of a DC37 employee is about $19,000 a year, she said.

“If you take anything away from them, they will be out there on the food stamp line,” she said.

The pressure is on in Albany, where Cuomo has made pension reform a priority. All state legislators are up for reelection this year. And the looming redistricting process has left many feeling uneasy about their political futures.

According to the New York Leaders for Pension Reform study, salary expenses in New York City have grown by 35% and healthcare costs have grown by 76%, while pension costs have grown by 499%.

In a statement, Bloomberg said the data “details the extremely, extremely generous benefits of the pensions the city provides.”

“We will continue to provide those generous packages to all current employees, but the stark reality is we simply cannot afford it for new employees,” he said. “The reforms we support would save local governments billions, while still providing outstanding benefit packages to our future employees.”

Meanwhile, DC37 and AFSCME launched a subway, newspaper and television ad campaign criticizing the city’s use of outside contractors.

One ad shows a broken swing in a playground, and claims city services have been cut while billions are spent on contractors.

“The public pays more and gets lower quality of services while city residents are put at risk, public workers are laid off and corruption scandals make the news,” Roberts said.

 

 

 


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