Parental Leave Takes Effect, But Some Not Thrilled by Trade-Off
Mayor de Blasio last week signed a personnel order offering six weeks of paid parental leave to 20,000 non-union and managerial city workers. Though an array of supporters applauded the new policy, which places New York alongside a handful of other cities offering the generous benefit, the Managerial Employees Association urged the Mayor to delay it, citing the loss of a raise planned for next summer and two vacation days.
“For too long, new parents have had to make an impossible choice between bonding with their child in those precious first few weeks or paying their bills,” Mr. de Blasio said at the Jan. 7 signing ceremony in the City Hall rotunda, where he was backed by officials, union members and employees sporting customized t-shirts. “Today, 20,000 of our families are no longer faced with that painful choice.”
Making Themselves Heard
Infants held by their parents occasionally cried and one poked at the Mayor as he spoke, prompting him to joke about raising his son, Dante. “I’ve had this experience before,” he said. “It’s really going to be okay.”
The order, 2016/1, is retroactive to Dec. 22, 2015, and applies to those working under “managerial” or “original jurisdiction” rules. The benefit applies to maternity, paternity, adoption or foster-care leave. When combined with accrued annual sick leave and vacation time, employees could have as much as 12 weeks’ leave at full salary, over a one-year period.
Employees can decide their start date, within six months of the qualifying event, and they can use their leave time intermittently within a three-month window. Those using the benefit must agree to stay with the city for at least six months after they return.
Stu Eber, president of the MEA, which advocates for workers not covered by the collective-bargaining laws, was supportive of the measure when it was first unveiled, but became displeased as more details emerged.
‘Didn’t Consult Us’
“Our members are very upset that the initiative was announced with no consultation with the MEA,” said Mr. Eber. He opposed the elimination of a 0.47-percent wage increase scheduled for July 2017 and the reduction of annual leave days for senior employees from 27 to 25, which would offset the $15-million annual cost.
The managers who qualify for the now-removed two days of annual leave are veterans with at least 12 years of service and are often more than 45 years old, according to the MEA.
“Mayoral Pay Orders have never been ‘repurposed’ and Time and Leave changes have never been limited to the managerial workforce,” he said. “Why ruin progressive policies with punitive implementation methodologies?”
Mr. Eber suggested the de Blasio administration explore other methods of paying for the benefit. “We will be meeting with the Office of Labor Relations later this month to advocate for a moratorium on implementing this progressive policy’s flawed funding methodology,” he said.
The MEA also objected that other forms of leave time—such as for illness—aren’t covered under the order.
Mayor: Ready to Talk
It does not cover the overwhelming majority of 300,000 city workers whose wages and benefits are established by collective bargaining. Mr. de Blasio and Labor Commissioner Robert W. Linn said they anticipated negotiating the new benefits with the unions that have reached agreements with the city.
“We’re ready to sit down at the table immediately,” Mr. de Blasio said. “And even though, of course, as with every negotiation, there are details and we do need to find savings involved, it’s something we want to do very quickly.”
Mr. Linn said that District Council 37 and the United Federation of Teachers have so far spoken with City Hall about the benefit. Both unions have released statements in support of the policy.
“Few things in our contract have been more transformative,” said Professional Staff Congress President Barbara Bowen, who represents City University of New York employees who gained the benefit in their previous collective-bargaining agreement.
Coalitions supporting family leave have argued that it helps improve staffer morale, children’s health, and reduces new parents’ reliance on public assistance. A White House task force found that when implemented in California—which, along with Rhode Island and New Jersey mandates some paid family and medical leave—employers reported positive or few noticeable impacts on profit, turnover or morale. The New York State Family Leave Coalition has urged New York give all employees up to three months’ leave time for new parents and those requiring to care for ill relatives by extending temporary-disability insurance.
Sadye Campoamor, a community-affairs staffer in the Department of Education who is seven months pregnant, said she was initially going to “tough it out” without the paid leave.
“I now feel confident that when I return to work…I will be that much more focused, less anxious, not depressed and not broke,” the five-year city veteran said.