Sundquist May Need A Similar Stance To The One Teresi Took

Mayor Eddie Sundquist seems to want to distance himself from former Mayor Sam Teresi.

When it comes to union negotiations, however, it would behoove Sundquist to borrow from Teresi’s playbook.

Sundquist began his first State of the City address by making note of the city’s precarious financial position. In fact, his warning Monday about city finances was quite similar to those issued in past years by former Mayor Sam Teresi, particularly when Sundquist said the city losing a couple of pending court cases could leave the city on the precipice of even worse financial problems than the city has seen previously.

It is with that in mind that Sundquist and his negotiating team should proceed very carefully with the new mayor’s decision to return to the negotiating table with the unions representing city police officers and firefighters. Sundquist wants to see if the city and the unions can find a middle ground on the city’s two biggest unresolved union contracts. Negotiations between the unions and the city negotiating team have broken down in the past because the city will agree to pay increases only if there are significant changes in the health care plans for police officers and firefighters.

There is nothing wrong with negotiating, but the city negotiating team should keep in mind the pending $840,000 in unbudgeted raises from an imposed arbitration ruling to settle the city’s contract with police officers for 2016 and 2017. Last April, the city appealed a state Supreme Court ruling siding with the Kendall Club Police Benevolent Association to uphold the arbitration ruling. A similar raise could be expected for city firefighters if and when the firefighters’ union files for its own binding arbitration proceeding.

Teresi and his administrative team — with help from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1 million in additional state aid over the past four years — left Sundquist a $4 million budget surplus coming into this year. That $4 million won’t go far, though, if the city loses its appeal of the police contract and then loses at the mediation table with the firefighters’ union.

Settling the police and firefighter contracts would be good for everyone, but Teresi has had the best interests of city taxpayers in mind during past negotiations — and it hasn’t resulted in deals getting done. Sundquist said it himself — the city is in a precarious financial position. He should keep that in mind as he reopens these contract talks. Pay increases must be mitigated with concessions on health care.

That was Teresi’s stance. It must be part of Sundquist’s, too.


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