Republican senators urge Cuomo to un-freeze scheduled pay raises for essential employees

Legislative Gazette file photo

Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo deferred a scheduled pay increase for state workers, members of the state Senate Republican Conference are calling for an exemption of the deferment for state essential employees on the frontline of the pandemic.

The would-be 2-percent salary increase for unionized state employees was meant for those working as correctional officers, law enforcement, public employed nurses, nursing home caregivers, mental health facility employees, and SUNY and CUNY faculty.

This pay raise for many was scheduled for the start of the fiscal year on April 1, and would have increased the state budget spending by $359 million.

With many of these workers deemed essential employees, they are continuing to work during the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York. Senator Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, and his Republican Senate colleagues, believe these workers should be exempt from Cuomo’s pay raise freeze.

“The very fact that those workers unable to work remotely are risking their personal health and safety to protect the health and safety of New Yorkers at large deserves and demands our recognition and, more importantly, support,” O’Mara and GOP Senate members said in a letter to Cuomo. 

By freezing raises for the state workforce, it combats the alternative to being laid-off completely during the economic hardships the state and country is facing of unemployment. 

New York law enforcement and correctional officers are a part of the essential workforce that cannot abide by social distancing orders. Correctional facilities are hit hard with high rates of infection by living in close quarters and struggling with the rest of the state in limited testing and access to medical supplies.

Michael B. Powers, the President of the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, views the state’s deferred pay increase as another burden on the workforce already at the highest risk of exposure.

“Today’s news is yet another slap in the face to the brave men and women in law enforcement and those on the front lines of keeping order in our state’s prison system and our mental health facilities,” Powers said. 

Along with O’Mara, 16 state Senate Republicans signed a letter to Cuomo, asking him to meet these demands of continuing with the salary increase for essential frontline workers, who don’t have the option to work remotely and directly come into contact with exposed COVID-19 patients.