Comptroller Scott Stringer urged the de Blasio administration to settle all of its outstanding labor contracts within the next four months. Credit: Getty Images
The city needs to settle all of its 151 outstanding labor contracts within the next four months, said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Wednesday.
One week after Mayor Bill de Blasio released his first preliminary budget, Stringer described the presentation as smart and prudent, applauding its fiscal responsibility in saving some $1.3 billion in reserve funds.
How that budget surplus reconciles with what's estimated to be as much as $7 billion in back pay for 300,000 municipal workers remains unclear. Stringer said part of it could come from the surplus, but he implored the administration address the issue as soon as possible
"It's a complex and daunting task, negotiating through this landscape," Stringer said. "And were lucky to have leadership on both sides of the table committed to swift and fair resolution."
Calling it the elephant in the room, Stringer said retroactive pay remains an issue for all city workers. Any potential back pay needs to be funded within the same year that contracts are settled, he said.
As a result, Stringer said it was critical for the city and unions to come to agreement by June 30, the City Council's deadline to finalize the city's new budget.
The city needs to be transparent with taxpayers and comply with its obligation to its workers, he added, and neither can happen without clearer numbers from the administration on how much it will cost and where it will find the money.
"If we do not have clear resolution of the cost of labor settlements by around June 30, we run the risk of the decision made for the taxpayers by arbitration panels."
Earlier this week, the Daily News reported that the de Blasio had settled the first labor contract. Among the provisions in the agreement, the city approved back pay about 200 Department of Environmental Protection police officers after nine years without a contract.
That particular settlement, however, does not set the stage for the negotiations to come.
"We do not consider this any kind of precedent," de Blasio said on Tuesday at an unrelated event. "We’re also very clear that we have a profound fiscal challenge ahead and we need to find very substantial cost savings. But that all will be done in private negotiations and respectful negotiations."