New York Daily News

Unions, Mike in Interesting Spat


May 3, 2006—It's a familiar scenario.

The city and a municipal union settle a contract years after the previous agreement expired.

Union members often get hefty retro checks, but some say they still feel cheated.

"The city holds onto our money for all that time," more than one civil servant has told me. "And they get all the interest. We should get the interest."

Some union leaders have even proposed changing the state's Taylor Law so that workers do receive interest in such situations.

"The city should be penalized for dragging its feet in collective bargaining," Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said at a City Council Civil Service and Labor Committee hearing in March.

But Mayor Bloomberg slapped down that idea last week, saying there is no "pot of money" sitting around gaining interest during negotiations.

"This city doesn't have a pile of money sitting around," Bloomberg said last week, after announcing a tentative contract deal with the Correction Officers Benevolent Association. "This city still spends $2 [billion] or $3 billion a year more than it takes in. You cannot get away from that fact."

But each city budget does set aside a certain percentage for salary increases. One would assume wherever that money is, it is gaining interest.

But Bloomberg continued to dismiss the concept.

"It's true that the time value of a settlement delayed down the road is less than if they got it on time," Bloomberg said. "We have never tried deliberately to slow down a negotiation to take advantage of the time value of money."

Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook, who was standing with Bloomberg at the time, did his best not to criticize the mayor - a man he stumped for on the campaign trail.

"I can't blame the mayor," Seabrook said. "I do know legislation [to change the Taylor Law] is important."

Bloomberg said if the city was forced to fork out a compounding rate, the workers would end up with less of a pay increase.