Last week we wondered whether the Early Retirement Incentive bill that's gained some traction in Albany, particularly after Mayor de Blasio supported it, might create problems in the city's attempt to negotiate labor savings with the unions because the measure is open to members of the New York City Employees' Retirement System, to which sanitation workers and correction officers belong, but not to members of the Police and Fire Pension Funds.
It turns out there's no problem, because while the bill's language doesn't explicitly spell it out, uniformed Sanitation and Correction employees aren't eligible, Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association President Harry Nespoli told us Nov. 3.
"The city made it clear it will not affect any uniformed force," he said. While the prime reason is that uniformed workers qualify for full pensions with less service time and at younger ages than civilian employees, Mr. Nespoli said there was also a practical concern that may have swayed the administration.
"It's possible they were worried there'd be an exodus if it was offered to Sanitation and Correction," he said. "Just last week we had 45 people come to the union hall and retire. And these were people who had just gotten to the point where they were eligible to retire."
He said he believed that would be true in other uniformed agencies, and certainly the extraordinarily high attrition rate in the NYPD in recent months seems to bear that out.
"If the city turns around and offers it to uniformed forces, there's gonna be a mass exit," Mr. Nespoli predicted. "If you give them an incentive to leave, they're gonna go out the door."
He said his negotiations with Labor Commissioner Renee Campion over savings to avert layoffs were complicated by the fact that unlike the United Federation of Teachers, which managed relatively painlessly under an arbitration award that required it to defer $450 million in retroactive wages for its members until next July, his union didn't have a similar pot of money it could put on hold.
Among the USA's benefit funds, he said, "Some are in good shape and there are reserves, and some are light and I can't defer money from them. I'm looking to see other ways that I can generate a savings."
While he has criticized the failure of President Trump and Senate Republicans to approve a stimulus package that would bring desperately needed fiscal relief to the city and state, he cautioned that electing Joe Biden to the White House—as subsequently became increasingly likely—would not be enough to revive choruses of "Happy Days Are Here Again."
Besides budget help, he said, the city also needed to get its economy out from under the weight of the pandemic.
"If we get a stimulus and we get a vaccine, now you can come back," said Mr. Nespoli, who early this year was sidelined with the coronavirus for several weeks. "It's gonna take awhile. It's not just, if this guy gets elected, the comeback starts the next day."
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Sal Albanese, who left the City Council at the end of 1997 after the first of three unsuccessful runs for Mayor, wants his old job back, although in a different borough.
Mr. Albanese, who represented Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights for more than a decade, now lives in Staten Island, and he is planning to run for the seat being vacated by Council Minority Leader Steve Matteo, who is going to run for Borough President next year on the Republican line.
It's going to be a particularly tough time for the city fiscally, Mr. Albanese said Nov. 4, but that's one reason he wants to return to government.
Noting that he was laid off from his job as a Teacher during the city's 1975 fiscal crisis, he said his experiences starting then had given him a good understanding of how to deal with an austerity situation.
"I think I'd like to be part of the Council over the next couple of years," he said. "I think it's going to be a very important time."
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