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Long Awaited Labor Contract Signals Positive Change from Bloomberg to de Blasio

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After spending nine years without a contract and enduring a ‘Cold War’ with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 200 environmental officers have agreed to new contracts and will each receive $50,000 in back pay.  For unions, the contract is a sign of a new direction for the city under Bill de Blasio.

Kenneth Wynder, head of the Law Enforcement Employees Benevolent Association, praised DeBlasio for his “fairness”:

“We got treated with respect,” he said. “We felt much better compared to the nine-year battle we had with the old administration.”

DeBlasio inherited a problematic scenario that is likely to wreak havoc on the city’s budget for years. Bloomberg left office with none of the city’s 300,000 union employees under contract. No money was allocated for long delayed city worker raises in DeBlasio’s first budget, which resulted in uncertainty about de Blasio’s commitment to workers.

But the tide appears to have turned some. DeBlasio blasted the Bloomberg administration for being “irresponsible” and leaving office with expired contracts:

“It’s money that should have been there already as a matter of fiscal prudence,” he said. “The previous administration was given an artificially high level of credit for management . . . You cannot ignore open labor contracts for years on end.”

The DEP officers who reached a contract with the DeBlasio administration had been waiting since 2005.  These 200 armed officers have the important duty of protecting the city’s watershed update.  Their numbers have more than doubled since 9/11 as officials beefed up security to ensure no attacks were carried out on the city’s water supply.  

A deal was struck with de Blasio in one meeting, setting a tone for city worker raises and an administration willing to find ways to fund them, according to the New York Daily News:

“It took several negotiations sessions with the old administration, 11 arbitration dates, a Supreme Court hearing and one final meeting in December to get nothing done,” Wynder said.

Union negotiators sat down with city reps, including de Blasio’s new Labor Relations commissioner, Robert Linn, last Thursday. In a single session, they hammered out the agreement.

It calls for raises of 5% for 2005 and 4% in both 2006 and 2007 — on par with increases given to city police in those years.

The agreement also will double their differential pay for working nights to 10% from 5%, increase their annual uniform allowance to $1,000 from $250, and make them eligible for line-of-duty injury pay.

Putting a broken budget back together won’t be easy, but that doesn’t mean a philosophy of fairness can’t guide the process, as council member Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) explains:

“To say there’s extra money floating around is a misstatement, because built into this budget is the fact that we have to pay our workers,” he said. “You can’t disrespect the workers and let them work without a contract.”


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