“New York City employees…are unique in that they don’t make a substantial contribution to health care,” Mr. Holloway told the CBC, which has long pressed for higher contributions to health care by municipal workers.
‘Need Right Balance on Costs’
“The message here is not that health care’s too expensive to provide,” he continued. “We need to provide good solid health care to the hundreds of thousands of employees. The question is, what is the right balance between the employee and the employer in terms of how these costs get distributed?”
Municipal Labor Committee Chairman Harry Nespoli took umbrage at the remarks, saying in a phone interview, “The city forgets in 2009 we delivered $400 million over two years on health care to the city when they needed it the most.”
He continued, “We do pay co-pays, which we increased for all our members during that period of time. We’ve given already on health care.” With most union members working under expired contracts, he said, the city should come to the bargaining table before looking to change health-care costs.
“That’s the biggest gut issue right now, is that we have outstanding contracts out there that are over two, three years old,” he said. “With no raises, you’re going to turn around and want to take more from them? We’re always willing to sit down and talk about it at the meetings, like we did just two years ago…but I believe all the contracts should be whole.”
‘Big Part of Our Expenses’
Mayor Bloomberg backed Mr. Holloway’s remarks at a later press event, telling reporters, “In the next two years, we have a $10-billion deficit and at best $2 billion [in reserves] …we’ll look for everything we can. Governor Cuomo got agreement with upstate unions to increase their health-care contributions and that would be helpful. They’re a very big part of our expenses, as are pensions.”
Previous efforts by the Mayor to change health-care and pension payments have met with limited success.
But Mr. Holloway said the dire budget picture for Fiscal Year 2013, which begins next July, necessitated the debate. “This round will be particularly difficult. City agencies have already made dramatic cuts, and with a projected gap of $4.6 billion, the $2 billion we’re seeking to cut is the minimum that we think we’ll need to present a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2013,” he said.
“Dealing with health-care costs in a way that strikes the right balance between the benefits city employees need and what those ever-growing health-care costs will actually allow, what’s feasible, will have to be part of the picture.”