This is how it starts, teachers are in a layoff crisis where they might have to divert funds from their health care to avoid such layoffs. Unfortunately, this is what it has come down to, losing benefits in order to keep their jobs. At this rate, nobody will want to go into teaching.
Massive teacher layoffs and steep budget cuts could be averted if the municipal unions allow the city to dip into an obscure health care fund, the Daily News has learned.
Union officials are meeting Monday to hash out a deal that could let the city take millions from the labor-controlled Health Insurance Stabilization Fund.
The money could save 4,100 teachers jobs and maybe even some of the 20 fire companies on the chopping block, sources said.
“Is something like that being explored right now? Yes,” said a City Hall official familiar with the situation. The city and unions have indicated “mutual” interest in the idea, the official said.
Mayoral spokesman Marc LaVorgna confirmed the discussions. “Throughout the budget process, we have been working with organized labor to try to identify savings that could be used to protect core services,” he said.
The city has “raided” the fund in the past and, in return, boosted supplemental health benefits for union members, veteran labor officials said.
The fund was established in the 1980s after the city demanded concessions to cover health care costs that suddenly spiked after contracts had already been negotiated. Frustrated by the calls for givebacks, the unions agreed to pare back raises in return for the city contributing $35 million each year toward a new stabilization fund.
“Over the years, it kept building up,” a union source said. It topped out at $600 million in the 1990s; officials did not disclose Sunday how much remains.
The money has been primarily used to cover added costs of city employees who picked the slightly more expensive GHI health insurance plan over the HIP choice. The fund was also briefly used to pay for the PICA benefit, which covered psychotropic, injectable, cancer and asthma drugs.
As for a new deal, it remains unclear if the unions representing cops, firefighters and civilian workers covered by District Council 37 will agree to hand over money that would largely be used to save teachers.
“That was part of the discussion some years ago,” a labor insider said. “Why should they [now agree to] lose money for other unions’ members? Fire companies might not be closed.”
Taken from the Daily News BY Juan Gonzalez, Erin Einhorn and Reuven Blau