Chinese News Agency
August 11, 2004

NY police, firefighters threaten to strike in contract dispute

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- In the escalating contract dispute with the city, the New York police and firefighter unions said they would not rule out strikes or sickouts during the Republican National Convention, even though a work stoppage would be illegal.

The firefighters' union announced Tuesday that talks with the city have deadlocked, and it is now seeking mediation.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sounded uncompromising Wednesday when he told reporters that if anybody tries to put pressure on the administration because the convention is coming, "he doesn't seem to understand what New York is all about."

"The only pressure that exists here is that I think it's in theinterest of the municipal workforce of this city to negotiate contracts so they can get the maximum raises we can come up between the limited dollars the city has and the options of using workforce productivity," he said.

Police and firefighters have been following the mayor recently and heckling him as he arrives at various public events. Along with teachers, they have held what they call informational picketing sessions at Madison Square Garden, and they have also threatened to protest during the Republican National Convention later this month.

On Tuesday, off-duty police officers and firefighters marched outside the street-side windows of several network morning TV shows, and later they rallied on the steps of the City Hall.

The unions, which have been working without contract for two years, have asked for a new deal with raises and better benefits, but the mayor said the city cannot afford their demands and has offered them roughly the same deal that several other city unions have already accepted: a 1,000-dollar lump sum payment plus an 8-percent pay hike.

Both unions have insisted they deserve more because their jobs are more dangerous.