June 8, 2004
By MICHAEL SAUL
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU
Thousands of cops, firefighters and teachers plan to converge outside City Hall today to demand better wages from Mayor Bloomberg, marking an unprecedented gathering of the city's most powerful unions.
"If [the mayor] truly considers us to be the Finest, the Bravest and the Brightest, he has to treat us that way," said Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
Members of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and the Uniformed Firefighters Association have been without a contract since July 2002. The teachers' contract expired a year ago.
Bloomberg said yesterday the city cannot afford the raises the unions are seeking.
"It would be great if we had the money to pay them," he said. "But the fact of the matter is we have a three- or four-odd billion-dollar deficit staring us in the face."
City Hall released data yesterday highlighting the costs of pensions and fringe benefits.
By City Hall calculations, it costs $112,682 a year to employ a firefighter with more than 10 years on the job when pension and benefits are considered.
In April, Bloomberg reached an agreement with the 121,000-member District Council 37, the city's largest labor union, that provides a 5% raise over three years, with the possibility of an additional 1%.
Bloomberg said this should be the basis for agreements with other city unions, but labor leaders have called it unacceptable.
Firefighters union head Stephen Cassidy said firefighters, cops and teachers deserve to be "compensated better than the rest of the city workers."
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, said the city is "asking police officers to give more."
"And the city doesn't want to pay us for it," he said.