(Mary Rubilotta, CSEA Dep. Director of Contract Administration)
CSEA held negotiations with UCS on 1/30/14 and 1/31/14.
UCS painted a bleak picture of their financial health over the last four years. Since 2010, UCS has had a negative growth operating budget, meaning their costs are greater than the money coming in. Over this time period, UCS has been able to absorb these increased costs by streamlining administration and reorganizing or consolidating offices and programs that provide services to the courts and the public. Other steps that have also been taken include eliminating or reducing programs that are not critical to the court's core mission, modifying court operations, only spending on essential services and significantly reducing the workforce.
The UCS submitted a 1.81 billion dollar budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 that they like to call the "Road to Recovery" budget (2.5 % increase over the 2013-2014 budget). The Governor submitted the UCS budget to the Legislature but included a commentary saying this proposal is out of step with his goal of a fiscally responsible New York and encouraged the Legislature to keep any increase to 2 percent or less. UCS told us that anything less than 2.5 % could be disastrous for the court system.
UCS indicated at the bargaining table that any increases CSEA sought to the collective bargaining agreement would have to be paid for by finding savings somewhere else in the agreement.
CSEA reminded UCS that during these difficult fiscal times, Judge Lippman has implemented or is seeking to implement several expensive initiatives like judges' raises, indigent criminal defense standards, civil legal services, judge extensions, assignment of judges to Acting Justices of the Supreme Court, judge conferences, adding new Family Court judges, and keeping court operations open to 5 p.m. During this same time period, court employees have endured layoffs, doing more with less, receiving no cost of living increases, having additional health insurance costs, and the discontinuation of QTP (Partnership for Education funds) and child care/elder care programs.
CSEA went on to say that if UCS really valued the non-judicial employees as much as they say, they would show it by negotiating a fair agreement. If there is to be pain, then everyone should share in it - judicial and non-judicial employees.
Additional negotiation dates have been set for the end of February and early March.