New York Daily News

December 25, 2004

Dis-union pains

BY FRANK LOMBARDI
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU

Mayor Bloomberg called his failure to negotiate contracts with the city's most powerful municipal unions one of his biggest disappointments of the past year.

In a freewheeling end-of-the-year interview on his weekly radio show, Bloomberg listed the absence of a terrorist attack and the declining number of homicides, fire deaths, and traffic deaths as top accomplishments.

"On balance," Bloomberg concluded, "it's been a good year."

But his administration's failure to come to terms with the city's cops, firefighters and teachers topped his list of setbacks.

"We've got better than half the [city's] unions under contract now and we're making progress with some of the others," he said. "Disappointing that the police, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, chose not to negotiate at all."

As for the firefighters' union, Bloomberg said, "They don't want to negotiate either. And, he said, "We're not making a lot of progress" with the teachers' union.

"The PBA is disappointed that there isn't a contract, as well," Joseph Mancini, a union spokesman, said yesterday. "Unfortunately, the mayor's idea of negotiating is take it or leave it."

Randi Weingarten, president of the teachers' union, said, "If the mayor is really that disappointed, then he needs - at least where the teachers are concerned - to have a real heart-to-heart with his chancellor."

"The mayor only has his chancellor to blame" for the impasse, she said.

Bloomberg said he would like to give cops, firefighters and teachers raises but "we don't have any money."

"Some mayors would say okay, then nothing. I'm not trying to come up with zeroes," said Bloomberg in a veiled reference to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who did not give raises over several years.

"I'm trying to come up with real raises," he said.

The mayor's difficulties with all three unions - and the rank-and-file's growing hostility - will undoubtedly play a prominent role in next year's mayoral race.

In one Grinch-like moment, Bloomberg said he wasn't hoping for a white Christmas. Removing snow is too expensive, he explained.

"Snow costs us a million dollars an inch," he said. "Where a lot of people pray for a white Christmas, the mayor does not!"