By Jon Campbell
ALBANY Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office and the union representing State University of New York employees came to a tentative contract agreement Tuesday, their first since the previous pact expired in 2011.
If approved by the union's members, the contract with United University Professions would apply to 35,000 SUNY faculty and staff members, according to Cuomo's office. The agreement would be retroactive to 2011 and run through 2015.
"This contract agreement continues the state's commitment to fiscal discipline while recognizing the vital role our university employees play in a strong SUNY system," Cuomo said in a statement.
The deal with SUNY workers comes after 1 1/2 years of negotiation and mirrors other labor contracts Cuomo's office has agreed to over the past two years. The agreement calls for no pay increases through 2013, followed by 2 percent raises in 2014 and 2015.
The tentative pact also calls for nine furlough days, though seven would be repaid to the employees at the end of the term.
UUP was the largest remaining union of state workers without a contract after Cuomo's office had previously struck deals with the state Civil Service Employees Association and the Public Employees Federation, by far the two biggest public unions in New York.
If approved, the deal calls for an increase in health-care contribution rates for the SUNY employees. A worker making $40,137 or more annually would be required to pay 16 percent for an individual plan or 31 percent for a family plan, up from 10 and 25 percent, respectively.
The contract also would allow SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to authorize small bonus payments for certain employees, ranging from $250 to $500.
"This contract meets the unique needs of our members and meets the state's need to achieve savings in these difficult economic times," UUP President Phillip Smith said in a statement. "It's a fair contract for our union and the state."
Cuomo's office says the state will save $87 million in wages under the new pact, as well as $99 million through the increase in employees' health benefit contribution rates. The union had been seeking to "increase compensation across the board for all employees," according to a 2011 proposal that was posted to UUP's website.