Monday, February 14, 2011
Police and Fire Unions Accuse Mayor Bloomberg of Trying to Steal Their Pension Benefits by Sally Goldenberg - NYPOST.com
A bitter feud between Mayor Bloomberg and the city's police and fire unions erupted yesterday when enraged labor leaders called the mayor a "liar" and a thief for proposing to end a $12,000 annual pension sweetener they claim was negotiated in good faith.
"As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11, 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.' It's outrageous," Uniformed Firefighters Association President Steve Cassidy fumed at a City Hall press conference.
He and his counterpart at the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Pat Lynch, insisted the city reaped a $4 billion economic windfall after the unions allowed it to invest their members' pensions in the volatile stock market in 1968 that was the condition for handing members supplemental $12,000 pension payouts.
"This is a lie campaign, a media campaign to get everyone thinking that we're getting something we don't deserve," Lynch fumed.
Under then-Mayor Ed Koch, the city negotiated with the unions in 1988 to pay retirees a fixed amount -- then $2,500 per member annually -- from the "Variable Supplement Fund," rather than let the payments be determined by earnings. That set amount has since increased to $12,000 per retiree.
Bloomberg in his upcoming budget wants to end the benefit for retirees, for an estimated savings of $1 billion. But Cassidy and Lynch vowed to wage an advertising campaign and personally lobby city and state lawmakers to reject Bloomberg's proposal.
Final approval for the mayor's plan rests with Albany, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Gov. Cuomo have not taken public positions.
Nor has City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose members might asked by Albany lawmakers for a "home rule" vote before the issue can be sent to the legislature.
Bloomberg defended his comments against the unions' accusations, saying he has not mischaracterized the program and he continued to call it a "Christmas bonus."
"I don't know what they're talking about. We certainly didn't put out anything that, to the best of my knowledge, isn't accurate and true," Hizzoner said.
Bloomberg said the savings from reduced pension costs could spare schools from massive cuts that could be coming in the next city budget.
"We have to make a decision: Do we want to send out Christmas bonuses or have more teachers?" Bloomberg said.