NYC OTB Workers in Line for Pay Hikes

Pay for 1,000 unionized workers who haven't had a pay raise over a couple of years.

More than 1,000 unionized workers at New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. are in still in line for pay hikes and severance deals at a time when the OTB is moving to delay revenue-sharing payments to racetracks.

But Meyer Frucher, chairman of the OTB, said the raises are retroactive to make up for no pay hikes over the past couple years, and won’t be paid out until the OTB comes up with a long-term agreement with the industry and state to make the money-losing operation viable.

The unionized workers would get two 4% raises – paid in an unknown lump sum amount – to cover 2008 and 2009. He said the raises would make up for a period when the OTB workers fell between the cracks and did not get raises when the OTB was transferred from ownership by the New York city government to the state.

“We’re not talking about any prospective raises,” he said.

The raises would also permit the workers to get larger pension payments under a bill being negotiated at the state Capitol to provide incentives to get a large share of the OTB’s workforce to retire early.

“It ain’t what people are saying it is,” Frucher said of an angry backlash at the Capitol by lawmakers and their staff over word of the raises. The OTB had recently threatened to shut down if the state did not approve a legislative package advanced by Frucher; the OTB board last week changed its mind, and said it would do things like delay racetrack payments while it works out a longer term business plan in its Chapter 9 bankruptcy reorganization case. A timetable for all that is uncertain.

“We’re not talking about any cash at this point,” Frucher said of the raises. He said the raises are contingent upon a borrowing plan and agreements by the unions to reduce the OTB staff by upwards of 65% over the next year. The raises are also linked to various concessions, including an end to double-pay for working on Sundays and job reclassifications.

“That’s a pretty heavy hit on any union,” Frucher said.

The deal was negotiated with the union representing OTB workers about six months ago.

In New York, government pension payments are based on a government worker’s final three years of average salary. Frucher said the OTB workers deserve the higher pension payments – under the bill being negotiated at the Capitol – because they were denied salary increases over the past couple years. This would allow the OTB workers to get the raises and have them count towards their pension credits under the early retirement bill.

“They’re saying they just want what everyone else got,” Frucher said of the OTB’s unionized workforce.

Frucher said he could not immediately provide the total price tag for the raises for more than 1,000 workers. But he said any payments are down the road and will only happen if all the other conditions fall into place.

The OTB is also set to offer workers not eligible for early retirement incentives a severance package that would total as much as $15,000. Lawmakers privately complained the package also would pay $3,000 or more to some part-time and per diem workers.