Binghamton University may soon be feeling the effect of state spending cuts, albeit indirectly, as a result of a tentative deal struck between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the union that represents 35,000 SUNY employees.
Under the tentative contract, the state would save $87 million in wages and $99 million by increasing employees’ health benefit contributions over the course of the deal, according to a statement by the governor.
But employees represented by United University Professions would have to stomach a retroactive pay freeze from 2011 through July 2013, and minimal salary increases after that through 2016, as well as substantial increases to health care coverage costs.
“[The deal is] the best we could do given the constraints that the state put on us,” said James Dix, president of the Binghamton chapter of the UUP.
UUP has been locked in negotiations with the state since their previous contract expired in July 2011.
In the coming weeks SUNY professors will have the opportunity to reject or accept the proposal. Dix expects the deal to be accepted.
“I have predicted that the vote will be in big favor of it,” he said. “I mean I’m convinced that we have gotten the best possible deal with the state, and if we go back we won’t get anything more.”
A strange clause in the contract would reduce the wages of employees by the equivalent of nine days during the course of the contract period, and require they take a two-day unpaid leave during the same period. The remaining seven days’ salary will be repaid to the employees in the final pay periods of the contract.
“The package provides a rate of compensation, when you add the furloughs, which effectively means that the faculty has a compensation rate that doesn’t keep up with the rate of inflation,” said Ricardo Laremont, a political science and sociology professor.
Each university’s president would decide how his or her school would enact the furloughs.
Dix said the sluggish negotiation process was partly the result of making it clear that UUP has different needs than other large state unions that have already agreed to contracts with the state.
“UUP argued that its members had unique needs that were different from CSEA (Civil Service Employees Union) and PEF (Public Employees Federation),” Dix said. “It took about a year to convince the state that we were indeed different from the other two unions.”