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Post Mortem – What’s The Cost Of The Non-Strike?

Who knows?  That’s my non-conclusion.  Now that the ink is dry on the settlement that averted a strike on April 21st, both the RAB and the Union have issued press releases claiming victory and giving their version of how much the four year deal will set back owners – that’s you, me and everyone who owns a co-op or condo, as well as landlords of rental buildings. 

The two sides agree on the weekly wage increase won by building staff – for doormen and porters: $15/week for each of the first two years of the contract, $22/week in year three, and $23/week in year four. The amounts are slightly higher for supers and handymen.

Other than that, the two sides that reached agreement don’t seem to agree on what they agreed to. The RAB says that the aggregate increase in employer contributions to the Health and Pension Fund is $16/week in 2011, and not to exceed $15/week in 2012 and 2013. The Union doesn’t give specific amounts, but claims over the life of the contract a 20% increase to pensions, and a 20% increase to health care. In one release it says the increase in contributions to health care alone amounts to $182 million, in another it claims $304 million in new contributions to healthcare.

I’m no math whiz, but with my $5 calculator I did a seat of the pants calculation, using the weekly amounts set out by the RAB — $15/week x 55 wks x 30,000 employees for each year from 2011-2013.  By my reckoning that comes to around $76,000,000 give or take a few or more million, which is a lot less than $304 million or even $182 million claimed by the Union just for health care.

According to the Union, the four year agreement includes a total of $547 million in wage and benefit increases. Where does that number come from? I asked, but got no answer.  I tried to figure it out, but came up way short. Calculate the wage increases over the four year agreement, using the weekly increases agreed to by both sides, a 55 week year (taking vacation time into account), and 30,000 employees, and you come up with a number around $135 million. Add that to the $76 million in health and pension benefit, and you’re in the $200 million plus range, nowhere close to $547 million.

But what I want to know, and I’ll bet you do too, is how much will it cost all of us come next year?  I did a quick calculation, assuming a building staff of 10 – 4 doorman, 4 porters, 1 super, 1 handyman, and came up with a price tag of around $20,000 for 2011.  But I can tell you from 15 years on the board, that the annual increase in wages and benefits has never been that low, so the numbers reported by either side don’t seem to tell the whole story.  I suspect we won’t learn the true cost till it comes time to prepare the budget for the new year.

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