By RICHARD STEIER
(reprinted in it’s entirety from The Chief civil service newspaper, edition of 11.21.16)
Roughly 300 employees represented by the Transit Managerial Benevolent Association have gained a long awaited refund of a portion of their pension contributions under a bill signed Nov. 14 by Governor Cuomo.
The measure, which covers persons who were employed by the city transit system as of Oct. 1, 2006, provides refunds as far back as Jan. 1, 1995, according to Barbara O’Neill, the committee director for State Sen. Diane Savino, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.
It provides refunds for eligible employees of 4.35 percent of salary under a special pension contribution they made to qualify for a full pension based on 25 years service and retirement at age 55 or later from that date through the end of 1997. The refund would adjust for salary contributions of 2.85 percent from Jan. 1, 1998 through Dec. 2, 2001, and 1.85 percent from that date forward. Ms. O’Neill said it was not clear how much of a refund individual employees would receive, with contributions being based on the salaries they were making over the years.
“The people who are covered are going to be very happy,” said TMBA President Michael Landi during a phone interview the day after the Governor enacted the measure. One official involved with the legislation said that once the affected employees applied for the refund, they were likely to receive it within two months from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System.
Parity With Unionists
The new law gives transit managers parity with unionized workers in the transit system who had their contributions refunded under legislation approved in 2000. The largest group that received a refund then, members of Transport Workers Union Local 100, gained it as part of a contract deal the union reached with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the previous year. Some transit supervisory workers who were hourly employees were also covered by that legislation.
But managers don’t have collective-bargaining rights, and so the TMBA—which serves as an advocate for them—had to persuade MTA officials to allow them to gain a refund of their added contributions to the fund as a matter of equity. One gauge of the long struggle was that Mr. Landi recalled successfully making the case to Lee Sander, who was the MTA Executive Director under Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who left office early in 2008, with Mr. Sander exiting not long after that. The bill stalled in the Assembly that spring, and while the TMBA president said it was later approved several times by that body with the help of its Government Employees Committee Chairman, Peter Abbate, “It was the Senate side we just couldn’t get it past.”
That changed this year with a push from Senator Savino, a former union official who has remained an influential labor advocate.
While more than 800 TMBA members were on the payroll on the Oct. 1, 2006 trigger date for the refunds, more than 500 of them had previously had their extra contributions returned as either union members or hourly supervisory workers before being promoted into the managerial ranks.
No Cost to System
Stu Salles, an attorney for the TMBA, contended that there was no added cost to the pension system, since those eligible are simply having their own contributions returned, plus interest.
All that remains to be done, Mr. Landi said, is that “we have to follow up to find out from NYCERS when people can apply for their refunds.”
MICHAEL LANDI: Long hard fight ends in victory.
DIANE SAVINO: Played key role in bill’s passage.