February 9, 2011
By Erin Einhorn and Jonathan Lemire
Daily News City Hall Bureau
|Mayor Bloomberg, who has steadily agitated for pension reform, has said the city can no longer afford the $12,000 benefit, which is paid out each December.|
The rank-and-file police and fire unions angrily stepped up their attacks on Mayor Bloomberg Wednesday, slamming Hizzoner as a "liar" who is trying to "steal" their pension benefits.
Using searing rhetoric unusual in its vitriol, the uniformed service unions blasted Bloomberg's attempts to eliminate the annual $12,000 Variable Supplement Fund payout.
"The mayor of the City of New York has made statements that are completely untrue," said Steve Cassidy, head of the Uniformed Firefighters Association. "He's lying about the facts. What they are saying is patently false."
"As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11," Cassidy said, "Mike Bloomberg wants to say to firefighters and police officers who were there that day and didn't die, 'I'm going to steal money from your pocket.'"
Bloomberg, who has steadily agitated for pension reform, has said the city can no longer afford the $12,000 benefit, which is paid out each December.
"Nobody wants to get cut back, I understand that," said Bloomberg at a different event Wednesday. "We have to make a decision: do we want to send out Christmas bonuses or have more teachers?"
The union heads slammed Bloomberg for repeatedly referring to the payout as a bonus and for framing the budget as a choice between paying the $12,000 or laying off teachers.
"It's insulting to pit union workers - hard-working teachers and firefighters and police officers - against each other," said Pat Lynch, head of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association. "That's a game they're playing."
"People who read the papers or listen to the mayor's radio show walk away thinking that cops and firemen have a Christmas bonus," said Cassidy. "That's a lie! It's a negotiated deal."
"If he wants to change the date from just before Christmas, we'll move it up to July," Cassidy said.
More than 30,000 retired cops and firefighters receive the bonus, which was established in 1968 when the unions gave the city several million dollars to invest in the stock market.
Twenty years later, the deal was turned into a "defined benefit" which guaranteed the retirees $12,000 a year no matter how the market fluctuated. The unions estimate the city has made $4 billion from the fund since 1988.
Unlike other pension benefits, the $12,000 payout is not constitutionally protected - so Bloomberg has appealed to Albany to scrap it, suggesting it would save the city $200 million a year.
Though Cassidy is a frequent critic of Bloomberg, Lynch's union supported Hizzoner for his third term.
But Lynch sounded a different note at the Wednesday rally on the City Hall steps.
"We did endorse him in the past election," Lynch said, "but we're calling him a liar today because he's saying lies out in the public."