NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — After an ugly battle with the teachers union over the opening of schools, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the union are duking it out again.
This time, the city said it could not afford to ante up back pay because of the fiscal crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Friday.
The message from United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew was terse.
“We’re in for another fight,” Mulgrew said.
Mulgrew sent a video message to his 120,000 members to tell them that, because of the pandemic, the city informed him it cannot afford to give the union a $900 million lump sum payment that’s owed from an old labor agreement.
Each teacher was expecting a check this month from several hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on how long they’ve been in the school system.
“It’s too easy for people who have the power to always say, ‘Oh, we’ll shift it onto the workers, the workers can give back more.’ That’s not gonna happen here,” said Mulgrew.
The dispute comes at a bad time for both sides.
The union battled the city over the reopening of schools – even threatening to strike if the city didn’t up its standards for making school safe.
The city is facing a $9 billion budget hole because of the pandemic. Mayor de Blasio has said, if he doesn’t get $1 billion in savings from the unions, he would have to lay off 22,000 people.
“The worst thing in the world would be layoffs,” de Blasio said.
The issue hit home for the mayor on his radio show when a retired teacher, whose wife is still teaching, told him he was depending on the retroactive money to pay for the office he set up so his wife could teach remotely.
“I do fully understand the frustration and the pain that it causes. The problem is if I don’t find someway to get relief, the next step is layoffs… This is a case of a very unfortunate choice I have to make but, literally, we have run out of options,” said de Blasio.
A doctor from the Upper East Side is offering an option, calling on the city to postpone a $100 million program to build a pedestrian walkway over the FDR Drive at 54th Street and Sutton Place as part of The Greenway Project.
“It is just unhinged thinking and an inability for government to work efficiently,” said Dr. Alan Manevitz. “This is a pandemic. Priorities change… Be a leader.”
A spokesperson for the city said they are looking into the walkway issue.
Late Friday night, an independent arbitrator ordered the city to pay teachers half now — $450 million — and the rest in the next fiscal year.
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