NEW YORK – Police officers and firefighters announced an impasse Tuesday in their contract negotiations with the city and refused to rule out an illegal strike or sickouts during the Republican National Convention (search).
Off-duty police officers have recently been showing up at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's (search) daily public appearances and picketing outside Madison Square Garden, the site of the Republican National Convention beginning Aug. 30.
"Everyone has a limit, and the mayor needs to know we're close to our limit," said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
In the days leading to the Democratic National Convention, Boston firefighters had threatened to picket parties and other events attended by delegates. A contract agreement was reached on the eve of the convention, and no picketing took place.
In New York, several other city unions have already accepted a 5 percent raise plus $1,000 over three years. A mayor's spokesman said Tuesday that the city's last offer to the police and fire unions was a $1,000 lump sum payment plus an 8 percent pay increase, though most of that hike would be contingent on the unions' agreement to accept other contract changes such as lower pay for new workers.
But Tuesday, the police and fire union representatives said they deserve more significant raises than other city employees.
"Mike Bloomberg says we're no different than people that push paper," said Cassidy. "It's an insult to the firefighters and police officers who risk their lives every day." He said more than 1,100 New York firefighters have died in the history of the department, including more than 300 on Sept. 11, 2001.
Firefighters have been without a contract since May 31, 2002, and police since July 31, 2002.
Bloomberg has said the city cannot afford to give significant raises to municipal unions.
"It doesn't matter what tactics they use, the mayor isn't going to be intimidated into making a bad deal for the city," said Bloomberg's spokesman, Ed Skyler.